HAZARD — The Perry County Fiscal Court this week agreed to help Sanitation District 1 in the early stages of preparing for a new sewer plant to be built in Chavies.
During the latest fiscal court meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, the court agreed to clear the land where the plant will be built, which should save the district around $400,000 that can be now used to install sewer lines to homes in the district.
Additionally, Whayne Supply offered to let the fiscal court use a bulldozer free of charge to clear the land. Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble added that he would be happy to work weekends to get the land cleared, so that the money that would be used for hiring the work done could instead be used for completing the project.
Noble also said that the additional work in what is normally a down time for county workers would allow the county to keep people on over the winter instead of having to consider layoffs.
Work on the sewer plant could begin soon since officials are only waiting for an agreement with Breathitt County to maintain a section of the road leading to the build site that crosses into the county. Officials should be able to hold a final vote on this section of road in December.
The sewer plant will service a large portion of the county, bringing sewer service to several places that do not currently have the option of hooking onto the city system. Many homes from Walmart north will be included in the system once the plant is built.
In other business, questions arose over what the appropriate action would be for the adoption of roads into the county road plan that only serve one home. More questions came up during Tuesday’s meeting as more roads were submitted for consideration.
The state law allowing for roads to be adopted into the county road plan is vague, leaving much of those decisions up to the fiscal court. The only clear guideline for what qualifies as a public road is that the fiscal court believes that it serves a public purpose.
Fiscal court members have said in previous meetings that if there is more than one house, or a cemetery, church, or other structure that the public would need to get to along with homes, the road would be considered serving a public purpose.
Noble said that he wished the law about a road having to serve a public purpose would be changed.
“I wish they would change the law in Frankfort,” said Noble. “Everybody pays taxes and everybody should get something out of those taxes. Now if you have got two homes and they pay $300 a year in taxes, but you have got one over here and he pays $1,500, that is discriminating against those people (who pay more taxes but live on a private drive).”
County roads are maintained by the county and are to be left open to the public once adopted in. “That is what people need to understand is that that is a county road, that is not your driveway,” said County Attorney John Carl Shackelford. “You cannot tell people to get off of it.”
It is for this reason that public roads are typically only considered public if multiple people live on the road or it has access to a public place. However, District 1 Magistrate Frank Hurley said that he believes roads leading to one home could be considered serving a public purpose “if these people let public utilities travel that road to maintain their service.”
Several hypothetical questions were raised about the differences in road extensions and creating a new road and what a road is versus a driveway.
“You have to make a distinction between what is a road and what is a nice driveway, and it is pretty easy to tell,” said Shackelford. “Does this serve everybody, or does this just serve one house?”
An attorney general opinion on public versus county roads states that the fiscal court must consider several functions of the road such as the public impact, amount of traffic flow, number of people affected in the area, and whether a road is essential to the public. The opinion also stated that county roads can only include cemetery roads if these roads go to public cemeteries. This excluded one-family cemeteries or cemeteries that only affect a small portion of the public.
No actions were taken on roads with only one residence or a cemetery at this week’s meeting, though the court did approve a first reading for three roads, and the second reading on an additional eight roadways. With the second reading, the roads have been officially adopted into the county road plan.
The fiscal court also voted on two new hires at the courthouse that were retroactive as they had already been preforming the duties. One person hired was Paula Campbell, who currently works at the senior center. She will be taking on an additional 15 hours of work per week to work on benefits and health care that had previously been the duty of a human resources director. She was approved retroactively for the job starting on Oct. 22.
The second hire was for Jody Jones, who has started training to replace the current maintenance director who is the position. Judge Noble abstained from voting due to the fact that Jones is his nephew. He was hired retroactively starting on Oct. 23.
One of the first projects that Jones has taken on in his new role is to cut energy costs at the courthouse. Kentucky Power Company currently has an incentive program to change out inefficient lights for brighter, more efficient lights. According to Jones, this will save the county from $1,500 to $2,000 in utility bills every month.
While the cost of the lights will be around $320 per light, the fiscal court will receive an incentive per light bulb as well as for each light that can be eliminated due to how much brighter the new bulbs will be. The work will be done per floor as separate projects with each floor costing around $8,000. In total, the cost of changing the lights throughout the whole building could cost upwards of $36,000.
The fiscal court voted to move forward with the project on the first floor. Noble abstained from voting since the court voted to hire one of his nephews, Bill Combs, to complete the work.
Also during the fiscal meeting, County Clerk Haven King submitted his 2013 budget which indicates that through permits, fees, revenue, and licensing, nearly $8 million will flow through the office. Almost $90,000 will go to the clerk’s salary and over $400,000 will cover the remaining salaries. An additional $9,000 will go towards overtime.
Owen Grise with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program came to the meeting to ask for the fiscal court’s help in spreading the word about a new program they have aimed at helping miners get back to work. The HOME, or Hiring Our Miners Every day, program is using over $5 million to retrain and find employment for laid off miners with spouses.
“Since February, our region has lost officially somewhere around 2,500 jobs,” said Grise. “Fourteen hundred of those have been in the coal industry, and those numbers are a couple of weeks out of date now.”
The fiscal court also voted to name the bridge on 550 in Dwarf after a fallen veteran from Perry County. Herbert King died in battle in the Korean War.
The court also appointed new board members to the Perry County Ambulance Authority Board. Paula Campbell, Lee Hillman, and Don Howard will all be joining the board this year.