Residents who live along the affected stretch of highway on U.S. 23 where a concrete barrier wall has been constructed asked for the council's support in reaching what they see as a more logical solution.
Mary Neeley, a citizen who works along this stretch of highway, compared Prestonsburg to a sandwich when she said, "We're like a beef patty stuffed between two buns," while citing that both Pike and Johnson counties are each growing economically, but Prestonsburg is stuck in the middle with the new barrier wall, essentially blocking off the main corridor through the city.
"What's going to happen to us?" Neeley continued. "We're not going to drop it."
In a previous meeting on this project, an engineer made mention that the governor would be the only official who could halt the project or work to establish something more efficient. Council member Collins noted that Gov. Ernie Fletcher will be making a trip to Pikeville tomorrow and suggested that the mayor and each of the council members contact him by phone and in writing to request his presence in Prestonsburg for a discussion on the issue.
"We need our political leaders behind us," said property owner Floyd Skeans. "The leaders we, as citizens, voted for and put into office."
Mayor Jerry Fannin, each of the council members, and citizens will be contacting the governor's office to make the request.
A nearly 45-minute closed session followed discussion on the barrier wall and upon returning, council members heard some disturbing news from Archer Park's chairman of the board.
According to the park board, Archer Park is at a very high risk of being shut down due to budgetary concerns.
Recently, city council voted to turn over the Stonecrest facilities to the Archer Park Board, but the board says it cannot take care of what they have now, much less any additional facilities.
The park board did some research and found that in 1992, an ordinance was secured that would provide the park with one-third of a motel tax set forth through Prestonsburg Tourism, since the park was seen as a tourist attraction. Now, the park board says they aren't receiving the money they should from the tourism office because tourism now says that the park does not bring in a sufficient amount of tourists to be considered an attraction.
Park Director David Baldridge noted that the tourism office had been provided numerous records documenting that the park does bring in tourists, with family reunions noted as an example. According to the city's finance officer, tourism budgeted $184,000 to go to the park this year, but some say this amount is considerably less than the park should be receiving. A check of the budget tourism provided to city council revealed that tourism had a reserve fund balance of nearly $100,000, leaving some council members wondering how they had so much reserve money when they weren't paying the park the full portion of the motel tax they were assigned in 1992. Council will be looking further into the issue to see what needs to be done to save the park from closure.
Further discussions on a topic brought up at the last regular city council meeting yielded more questions on the legality of tax incentives for citizens who choose to be annexed into city limits.
"I'm not going to support selective tax incentives," said council member B.D. Nunnery.
The majority of council members agreed that a tax break for people who choose to be annexed is not fair, if not illegal. Mayor Jerry Fannin stood his ground and says that the incentives are legal and that council should shy away from revoking offers already given to some citizens.
"I don't think it's right to back out on a deal," Fannin said.
When votes were cast to notify residents that the city would no longer uphold these incentives, council member Kelly Moore voted against the measure, but not without being second-guessed. Council member Gorman Collins said he didn't think Moore should have been allowed to vote on this issue since Moore's property was part of the tax incentive project.
In other business, grass cutting bids were opened and the lowest bid came from B&D Lawn Care at $540 per week to cut all of the grass on city property. Council member Don Willis offered a suggestion that the landscaping crew cut the grass, but was eventually proven that the hiring of extra seasonal workers, insurance, and equipment would cost the city more money than simply paying someone else to do it.
Fannin brought a vote to the table which would allow the city to enter into a cooperative agreement with several other area cities, that would allow the city to purchase needed materials at a bulk discount rate. Fannin says he thinks it will save the city money, but if for some reason it doesn't, the agreement allows them to back out at any time. The council approved the measure.
A $2,000 donation to the Floyd County Rescue Squad was approved along with a $200 donation to Relay For Life's Kids Day in the Park. Council member Gorman Collins noted that the city should look more closely at who they donate to, saying that the Kids Day in the Park wasn't something that everyone in the city benefited from, unlike the services provided by the rescue squad.