PRESTONSBURG — A discussion on the maintenance of the Middle Creek Battlefield offered more heat than light, during last Friday’s meeting of the Floyd County Fiscal Court.
Frank Fitzpatrick, who sits on the battlefield’s governing board and whose family donated the land for it, addressed the court for what he said was a “matter of personal and community concern.” Fitzpatrick noted that the battlefield is often in “deplorable condition,” and he requested the county do more to keep it in shape.
Fitzpatrick said that with the current weakness and job losses in the coal industry, Floyd County needs to do everything in its power to bring in outside money in the form of tourism. He noted that the 95 percent of the battlefield’s visitors come from outside the area, “and they bring tourism dollars with them.”
“If we don’t take care of our resources, and especially the historical resources we have, then we’re going to find ourselves in worse shape that we’re already in,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick pointed to a contract between the county and the state Transportation Cabinet, in which he said the terms required the county to perform “upkeep and maintenance” on the battlefield, in exchange for the state developing the property. He said that if the county does not hold up its end of that bargain, it could find itself on the hook to repay the state the $300,000 used to develop the battlefield.
District 1 Magistrate John Goble, however, said that he and District 2 Magistrate Hattie Owens do provide maintenance on the battlefield, in the form of mowing it twice a year. County Attorney Keith Bartley further said that, while the contract does require that the county maintain the property, it does not stipulate how often that maintenance should occur.Fitzpatrick left the meeting without an answer from the court. No further word was offered during the meeting on whether or not the county will increase maintenance of the battlefield.
Following the meeting, Fitzpatrick was not happy. He said the court’s inaction was tantamount to “class warfare” and that the battlefield was being held as a “political hostage.” He added he believes some county officials expect him to pay for maintenance because of his own personal success, but he said his finances are not the issue.
“That is not the point,” Fitzpatrick said. “Maybe I do have the resources, but the bottom line is the Floyd County Fiscal Court agreed to do the maintenance and upkeep.
“The bottom line is the battlefield is the one that loses, and we lose the tourism dollars that ensue from that.”