PRESTONSBURG – The Floyd County Fiscal Court met to discuss current issues facing Floyd County at this time on Friday.
Floyd County Jailer Bear Halbert addressed the court to give an overview update on things he is currently working on at the jail. With the overcrowding of inmates, the jail is in need of a full-time nurse. Halbert currently has a nurse who has agreed to be the jail’s full-time nurse and he is working on the paperwork to approve her full-time status. The jail is also working on a plan for the inmates to care for abandon graves throughout the county.
The next item on the agenda was the county budget reduction of coal severance and mineral tax. According to County Judge Executive Ben Hale, counties rely on coal severance and mineral tax to account for approximately 30% of their operating budget. With the steep decline in the economy, Eastern Kentucky coal is now only a fond memory. For example, in 2009 the county received $5.8 million in combined coal and mineral tax. In 2016 the projected amount of coal severance and mineral taxes slated for Floyd County is $1.1 million. That is a total loss of $4.7 million that the county will not receive. There has been a drastic reduction in the amount of coal operating productions going on in the county. Although the county has been on a drastic decline in coal operations, the mineral tax on natural gas has been maintaining until this year. Last year the county received $1.8 million in mineral tax and for the first time is several year, it has been reduced to approximately $600,000.
The challenge for Judge Hale and the Fiscal Court is to continue to provide the same services at the same level of professionalism and effectiveness as before.
“It is like we have turned the faucet off. The coal severance money that once flowed into Eastern Kentucky counties have now dried up. The money is no longer available,” said Judge Hale.
In an effort to fight for the citizens of Floyd County, Judge Hale will travel to Frankfort Tuesday, February 23 to appear before the Appropriations and Revenue Committee to ask for an influx in coal severance tax. The money can be re prioritized to fund projects that will maintain the 450 miles of county road and the upkeep of the road system, senior citizen programs, Parks, DAV and quality of life programs. County governments seek funds from various sources to maintain operating cost. The County Road Aid for Floyd County in 2016 is $1.4 million. That is approximately $250,000 down from the year before.
“I have made a promise to the people of Floyd County. I will continue to look for alternate resources for operating funds. I will not put the county in more debt. When I took office again in January 2015 I was faced with approximately $400,000 cash on hand. I worked with my magistrates and financial consultant Carla Stephens and we found savings of over $700,000 by making effective decisions on county employee healthcare, solid waste, and fuel cost. It is a tough job with tough decisions to be made,” said Hale.
Also on the agenda was the ownership and management of the Martin Community Center. The Center is roughly 15 years old and has been officially closed for 3 years. The center was once home to a gymnasium where many used to play basketball, exercise, and hold activities such as after school tutoring. Also located at the Martin Community Center were Floyd County GED classes, computer lab, Martin City Police, and a branch for the Floyd County Clerk. A local group consisting of Todd Howard and Levi Wells have formed a non- profit organization to repair the community center and help restore its significance in the community. The court has asked Attorney Ashley Lafferty to prepare a proposal for the operation and lease agreement of the facility. The court stated they have had recent interest in the building to turn it into a local business. Judge Hale maintained that the court needs to listen to all proposals and options before determining what is best for the county.
“We have turned the gas on at the community center and spent several hours out of our day to meet contractors to get estimates on the repair. We want to move forward, however we are hesitant to take a step forward until we can get a solid commitment from the fiscal court,” said Levi Wells.
“We have had a few individuals approach us about purchasing the building to house local business. We want to explore all options due to the financial state of the county. If the building is restored as a community center, the county will suggest a lease agreement somewhere down the road. Once Ashley prepares the proposed agreement we can review the agreement together. We just don’t want to close the doors on the sale of the property, especially if a local business can create jobs,” said Hale.
The court agreed to table the discussion of the Martin Community Center until the next fiscal court meeting. Meetings of the fiscal court are open to the public. All Floyd County citizens are encouraged to attend. The decisions being made at these meetings effect everyone in the county. Get in on the discussion.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for the Floyd County Post. She can be reached at 606-794-0290.