The City of Whitesburg should be able to begin work on stabilizing the old Daniel Boone Hotel building on Main Street sometime in May.
At the March meeting of the Whitesburg City Council, Mayor James Wiley Craft said the Kentucky Department for Local Government has agreed to act as fiscal agent for the city to help manage $1 million in grant funding from the state and federal agencies of the Appalachian Regional Commission. Craft said the city has worked hard to obtain the funding and that he is anxious to get started with work on the old three-story hotel, which has been vacant for several years.
In other business, the council voted to open the Whitesburg Swimming Pool for the coming summer, even though the facility lost more than $100,000 last year. Craft explained that a significant portion of the $114,000 loss was the result of equipment failures and the cost of replacements and maintenance. Craft said the entire facility was reroofed last summer and two pumps had to be replaced as well.
Craft said Donna Perkins, who managed the pool last year, has agreed to accept the responsibility of managing the pool again and will be paid $8.00 per hour. He said she would also handle water testing. The city will keep the proceeds from the gate, which he said should cover operational costs. The Letcher County Central High School cheerleaders will take care of concessions at their own expense, Craft said, and will keep the proceeds.
Craft said the pool has usually generated some income after meeting expenses, and last summer was an anomaly in that respect. He also said Perkins had asked that the “baby pool” be covered over to reduce the number of lifeguards needed, but the council voted to keep it open.
Councilman James Bates made a motion to close the pool, but his motion died for lack of a second. Councilman Mike Jackson, who said he had worked as a lifeguard at the pool when he was younger, said he feels the pool serves a valid purpose and added that as long as the baby pool is open it should have a lifeguard. Jackson said it is impossible to legislate common sense, and that some parents don’t watch children in the baby pool as closely as they should.
The vote to open the pool for the summer of 2017 was approved five to one with Bates voting no.
The council also heard from Gwenna Vanover Pennell, president of the Letcher County Autism Awareness Advocates and chairperson of the Letcher County Sensory Park Committee. She thanked the council for providing land for a park and said an auction held by the park committee raised $10,000. Pennell said the committee hopes to open the park in March 2018 to serve the needs of children with sensory disorders. Several events are planned to commemorate Autism Awareness in coming weeks, including a balloon release on March 31 and a Walk for Awareness through the city on April 22. The Sandlick Fire Department will provide a fire truck for kids to ride along during the walk.
In other business, Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill reported that city workers have repaired a number of water leaks that required them to tear up city streets and sidewalks this winter. He said as soon as the weather stabilizes, work would begin to repair the damage. Caudill added that the city sewer plant, which is less than 10 years old, has had a number of maintenance issues recently, including two pumps that went down. One pump had to be replaced at a cost of $4,000 and the other was rebuilt. He said the Kentucky Division of Water is aware of the problems.
Caudill said he also ordered a year’s supply of odor suppressant for several problem areas in the city at a cost of $5,800, and is looking at a new coagulant for the water plant that costs less than the one they are currently using.
In his monthly report to the council, Craft said a slide had taken out a significant portion of the road on Sunday Drive, wrecking about one-third of the street. Craft said he had spoken with the Director of the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and said AML has agreed to repair the damage caused by the slide, which includes replacing water and sewer lines.
Craft said the cost to AML would be about $400,000. Work will begin as soon as the weather stabilizes. Craft praised AML for its work in saving a significant amount of money for the city.
— By WILLIAM FARLEY