The Appalachian Wildlife Center was discussed briefly at Tuesday’s Bell County Fiscal Court meeting when Magistrate Eddie Saylor asked if it was true that work had stopped on the project.
“Yes and no,” Judge-Executive Albey Brock said. “There is no site work going on at present, but they’re getting ready to start back.”
Brock explained that the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation had run into a snag with the environmental study it had to do for a USDA loan that delayed the project.
“When they first received their AML (Abandoned Mine Lands) money, which is federal funds, they had to do an environmental study associated with that. You don’t get any federal funds especially of that size without an exhaustive environmental study,” Brock said. “They went about the business of doing that, they completed that and they were approved for it. Some of the money that has been spent up there was abandoned mine land money under that environmental (study).
“They were in the process of getting a USDA loan and were approved. They used the same environmental study that was done for the AML money, but when it got to D.C. and that study was reviewed at the D.C. level — apparently the USDA has a different environmental requirement than AML. So they had to cease what they were doing, back up and amend the environmental study they had done.
“That’s all been completed,” Brock continued. “I actually saw the letter ten days ago that everything was approved and they should start slinging dust again soon.”
Brian O’Brien was present at the meeting and he added that the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation would soon be sending out a press release announcing a rebranding of the Wildlife Center.
“They’re going to be changing the name. That was the plan all along but now they’ve come up with a new name for the center itself and the entire project. Expect that out within the next month,” he said.
Brock said that despite the delay in construction and the planned change in name everything is still on track for the center.
“It’s still a go. I don’t want anybody to think that it’s not, but there was a hiccup there,” he said.
In a separate matter, the court approved a resolution to designate local industrial development authorities to receive TVA funds from the state under the regional development agency assistance program.
Brock explained that the TVA pays taxes to state of Kentucky and in the past the state had always kept those tax dollars and put them in the general fund. In the last legislative session, it was agreed that those tax dollars should go back to the local areas where it was collected to be used for economic development.
“We have access to $50,000 that has to go to an industrial authority. We have two industrial authorities here, the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Authority and the Bell County Economic Development Foundation,” Brock said. “Each of those will get $25,000 to help them do whatever it is they may be doing at the time.”
The court also approved changes to the rate of pay for several dispatchers.
“When Linda Patterson retired and we hired George Smith to be the dispatch supervisor, one of the primary reasons we did that was he had a schedule that everyone would be happy with that would eliminate a position. Nobody was fired or anything, it was done through attrition,” Brock said. “He was able to do that and part of that was if could eliminate a full-time position we would raise the pay a little bit for the ones that are presently there.”
The court approved changing the rate of pay for dispatchers Charles Miller, William Shelby, Robert Wilson Jr. and Colton Turner and hiring Dusty Harris as a fill-time dispatcher.
In other business, the court:
— approved the second reading of an ordinance related to the establishment of a moratorium on reassessment of property values of qualified rehabilitation properties in the Middlesboro Main Street District area;
— approved pay resolution no. 5 for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency Project;
— gave Judge Brock permission to advertise for bids for four ambulances and patient load systems for ambulances;
— gave Judge Brock permission to advertise for bids on the Vista Venada project;
— gave Judge Brock permission to advertise for bids for blacktopping of various county roads;
— hired Lamont Major Edwards as full-time deputy sheriff, Jonna Miller as part-time animal shelter worker, Jackie Downy and Barbara Green as seasonal tax clerks for the Sheriff’s Office, and Carla Ranshaw, Steven Engle, Ashley Ables, Aaron Bain, Crystal Caulill and Brandon Wilson as part-time deputy jailers;
— changed the rate of pay for deputy jailers Whitney Baker and Teresa Lefevers and changed Donavan Miller from part-time to full-time deputy jailer;
— accepted checks in the amount of $29,503.03 from County Clerk Debbie Gambrel and in the amount of $20,053.34 from Sheriff Mitch Williams.