By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Refinancing Whitley County’s two biggest debt loads may be coming soon.
During the regular meeting of the Whitley County Fiscal Court, Judge Executive Pat White Jr. wanted to table a financing issue concerning the old Post Office.
White said he was “trying to look at saving (money) by refinancing the debt.”
“These are historically record low interest rates,” he said. “(We could save) up to $70,000 a year for 20 years.”
He explained Wednesday the post office has history. “It is an old Works Project Administration post office,” White said. “It was part of (President Franklin) Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ legislation.”
He said a mural inside the building was declared historic, but that during restoration asbestos was discovered in the building and the project was tabled. Since then, White said, the building has primarily been used for storage. Grant applications have been made, but so far they haven’t been accepted. White said he continues to hope the restoration project would progress, but that no plans are currently in the works.
White also explained Wednesday that besides the debt load of the post office, the Whitley County Jail bond is the other loan the county owes.
The jail opened in 2004. White said the interest rate for the jail loan is 5.22 percent. He has received two proposals to refinance, but the second one didn’t come to the Court until Tuesday. White said one proposal offered a 2.36 percent interest rate.
“We have a decision to make,” he said. “Do we lock in the low rate now or run a gamble for the next few years?”
The only drawback for refinancing immediately is the jail loan has an early payoff penalty, according to White. He said that a review by Court magistrates was necessary before final decisions were made to refinance these two debts.
Fourth District Magistrate Robbie Brown motioned to table the issue Tuesday with a second from 3rd District Magistrate Jamie Fuson. The Court was unanimous with its decision.
In other business:
— An eight-county Regional Mitigation Plan was approved unanimously Tuesday. This plan, which covers Whitley, Laurel, Knox, Bell, Clay, Leslie, Rockcastle and Harlan counties, is an emergency management plan to be implemented in case of emergency, such as a terrorist attack. The biggest reason this plan required approval, according to White, was access to various types of grant monies - including repair.
Last year a rock slide crippled Tackett Creek Road in the southern part of Whitley County. Once this plan is in place, the county may seek grant funding to better repair the damage in the slide area. “We will get some assistance,” White said. “We’ve been patching there for about a year.”
White said engineers already have a plan of action once grant funding comes through. “We’re going to drill and concrete in a 40-foot section of steel to prevent further slippage,” he said.
Fuson motioned to approve the plan, with a second from Brown.
— A motion for a pay rate approval brought the only “no” vote Tuesday. During October’s regular meeting, a question concerning raises was brought up for discussion and reviewed, according to White. Monday’s vote was to approve $1-an-hour pay increase for various county employees. Brown motioned to approve the increase, with a second from Wells. Fuson did vote to approve, but added he had requested a review during the last meeting. “I cannot vote against the raise, but I didn’t like the process,” he said. Myers voted “no” on the approval. The measure passed 4-1.
— A second reading of a budget amendment was approved with no public comment. White explained that amendment totaled $404,672, most of which was to cover the county-wide road resurfacing project. He said that approximately $316,000 of that amendment was part of a grant agreement with the state of Kentucky to resurface all the black-top roads in the county. “The last of that resurfacing was completed Monday night,” White said. Second District Magistrate David Myers motioned to approve the amendment, with a second from 1st District Magistrate Roger Wells. The Court was unanimous in its decision.
— The Court unanimously agreed to approve pre-paid claims, which includes items such as payroll and utility bills. White explained those items have been authorized to be paid as they come due, and that approval for payment is offered by Fiscal Court retroactively. During this portion of the meeting, Brown wanted to recognize the 911 center for its low overtime hours. “They have (the overtime) under control,” he said. “They’re doing a good job.”
He said that only five hours of overtime were reported during October. Brown motioned to approve paying the claims, with a second from Wells.
— A new ordinance concerning carrying concealed weapons on government property had its first read last night.
According to White, the ordinance follows general rules already established. “It falls back on the normal rules of carrying concealed weapons on government property,” he said.
Myers motioned for approval of the reading, with a second from Wells. The Court was unanimous in its decision.
— The agreement between Whitley County Emergency Management and the Woodbine Rescue Squad was renewed last night. White said it was an agreement renewed annually. Brown motioned for approval with a second from Myers. The court was unanimous in its decision.
— Andy Meadors and Peggy Bird were reappointed to their commission seats on the Whitley County Water District board in two separate actions. Meadors’ term expires in 2016. Bird’s term expires in 2015. Fuson motioned to appoint Meadors, and it was seconded by Wells. Wells motioned for Bird’s appointment and it was seconded by Fuson. The court was unanimous in both decisions.
— White discussed making a motion for the Court to support the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security, or FACES of Coal. According to its website, FACES of Coal is “..an alliance of people from all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining to our local and national economies and to our nation’s security.”
White said mining in Kentucky supports approximately 84,000 jobs in the state. “(Coal) generates half of the electricity in the United States today,” he said. “And (coal supplies) 90 percent of electricity in Kentucky.”
Myers motioned to offer support, and it was seconded by Wells. The Court was unanimous in its decision.
— Two roads received a name change, and a third road was brought into the county’s road system. The Court unanimously agreed to adopt Train View Lane into the road system. Fuson motioned for the adoption, with a second from Brown.
The two streets with new names were once Johnny Philpot Road and Johnny Philpot Spur. White said that residents petitioned the name change as the family no longer resides in that area. The new names as of Tuesday are B & G Road and Kerr Court. Wells motioned for the changes, with a second from Brown.
— Whitley County resident Bob Cureton approached the Court to discuss what he feels are problems with the county’s 911 call center. He said that when his late wife was fighting health issues, he would have difficulty getting assistance and had even opted at one point to transport his ailing wife to the hospital himself. He explained he wanted to see emergency personnel trained better when it came to elderly patients. White explained that the Court would be happy to relay Cureton’s concerns to the nine-member board, but that he might do better explaining those concerns directly to board members. White also offered to help Cureton attend one of the public meetings of the 911 board to explain his concerns to them, adding they investigate complaints to try to learn from mistakes and to improve services.