2009-08-26 / Front Page

Court OK's plans for rec center

By WILLIAM FARLEY

Planning is now complete on the new Letcher County Recreation Center and the project should begin construction by early next year. The Letcher County Fiscal Court approved the plans presented by architect Jack Waddell of Summitt Engineering and Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he hopes to see the center open to the public by early 2011.

Plans for the two-story center include a full-sized basketball court, several three-quarter sized courts, a walking track, a climbing wall, a number of multi-purpose rooms, an exercise center, an arcade, and other rooms for meetings, parties and other functions. There is also a sixlane bowling alley and an outdoor batting cage.

Waddell said the climbing wall will be the only one east of Lexington and the center will have elevators, stairs and childcare areas. Waddell also said the committee has discussed the possibility of using geo-thermal energy to heat and cool the building. Judge Ward added that the building will have a dual use as an emergency shelter and said he will meet with FEMA officials to discuss the possibility of obtaining generators and other equipment. Waddell said the building was designed to afford as many opportunities to make the center self supporting as possible. The court voted unanimously to approve the plans.

In other business, the court voted five to one to accept several revisions and additions to the county personnel policy made by County Attorney Harold Bolling to accommodate the newly created Letcher County Police Force, or County Rangers, with Fourth District Magistrate Keith Adams casting the lone no vote. Bolling told the court he had added a third category, law enforcement, for county personnel, in addition to hourly and classified personnel. He said he had also added definitions of training and certification requirements and Kentucky state law will regulate certain aspects as well. Officers must be U.S. citizens, Kentucky residents, and over 21 years of age. They will serve a sixmonth probationary period, as all county employees do, and will be treated as hourly employees for the purpose of insurance, fringe benefits, and retirement.

Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming told the court that in looking at the revisions in policy for county police officers, he came to the conclusion that the entire county personnel policy needs to be revised to make it more equitable for all employees. Fleming said that in some cases, newly hired workers were making as much or more than workers with several years' experience. Fleming said the county needs to employ the best people it can find and in order to do so, personnel policies must be revised to reflect job skills, tenure, and certifications.

"Sometimes I wonder why they even work for us," said Fleming. "We need to rethink this and look at the entire policy."

Bolling agreed with Fleming and said he will do all he can to help with policy revisions. Fleming told the court he doesn't expect this to be accomplished overnight but asked that a committee be set up to examine policies and that it should include county workers and court members.

Fleming also invited court members to a meeting with representatives from Premier Elkhorn Coal (TECO) he said he is trying to put together on September 15 to discuss the possibility of transferring Raven Rock and the old railroad tunnel to the county. Fleming said the acquisition has been something he has long wished for and he believes it would be a centerpiece for county tourism efforts and he hoped to accomplish it before leaving office.

In other court business:

. Benny Hamilton of KRADD told the court that representatives of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife have asked the county to address five areas, including steepness and length of slopes due to erosion, and several concerns about the habitat and feeding area of Indiana bats. Judge Ward said the county will continue to comply with Fish and Wildlife's wishes in order to get the Pioneer Horse Trail going.

. Hamilton also told the court that the Federal Bureau of Prisons is doing feasibility studies on the four suggested sites in Letcher County for locating a federal prison. He said the project is still moving, but that it was moving slowly, "at a federal pace." Hamilton said the next steps would be an environmental impact study and placing the project in the Federal Register.

. Parks and Recreation Board Chair Berma Matthews reported that the work on county parks and playgrounds is just about complete and now communities throughout the county are using and caring for their parks. Matthews said the board is now ready to begin looking at upgrading Fishpond Lake. Judge Ward agreed and said the development of a recreational vehicle parking area should be high on the list of priorities. Matthews said the creation of the County Police Force should make it more practical to spend money at Fishpond Lake since the property will now be protected by law enforcement officers.

. County Surveyor Richard Hall reported on several widening projects to make access to narrow road entrances safer for school buses and other traffic. Hall, who also works for Enterprise Coal Company, said Enterprise is willing to donate whatever land is necessary to widen the road at Lynn Branch on Kingscreek to make it safer.

. Magistrate Fleming also asked the court to start looking for funding to tear down the Boones Fork Senior Citizens Center and build a new center on the site. Fleming said the old center is very old and in bad shape. He said the maintenance costs are starting to exceed what it would cost to build a new center.

. The court unanimously approved the Letcher County Jail Policy and Procedures Manual which Judge Ward said is unchanged from last year.

. The court voted unanimously to give Judge Ward and County Attorney Bolling the authority to execute an agreement with Letcher County Schools to finalize the purchase of the Kingdom Come School for $150,000.

. The court voted unanimously to name the bridge on Highway 2034 at Ermine for Specialist Edgar "Buddy" Grubbs, a veteran of the Vietnam War and one of the driving forces behind the Letcher County Veterans' Center.

. The court voted to purchase a used Thurman Truck Scale to replace the scale at the recycling center transfer station.

. The court voted to allow Fleming-Neon to use county right of way for installing and maintaining a waste water collection in the Haymond Sewer Project.

. The court approved the lease of property at Campbell's Branch for the Campbell's Branch Volunteer Fire Department, a subdivision of Letcher Fire and Rescue.

. The court voted unanimously to approve the second reading of Budget Amendment 14 to accept $125,350 in state grants for the Sandlick Water Project.

Bank balances as of August 21, 2009 for county funds:

• General Fund — $390,321.70

• Road and Bridge Fund — $1,830,666.59

• Jail Fund — $264,815.50

• LGEA Fund — $2,054,888.16

• Senior Citizens Fund — $108,818.92

• Forestry Fund — $5,640.32

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account — $469,896.97

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account — $64,087.47

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