Sturgill creek clean

Lonnie Sturgill (standing, right) hands magistrate Chris Huddle (seated, left) a copy of the 1963 resolution requiring the county to maintain flood control improvements to the creek at Grahn along with photos of the overgrown vegetation in the creek bed. Improvements to the creek were made by the Corps of Engineers, and the county is aware of their responsibility, but lack of funds have delayed progress on the maintenance.

Back in 1963 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made some significant changes to the creek bed of Little Sinking Creek at Grahn in the name of flood control. The corps deepened and widened the channel through the community and lined the creek with concrete.

The idea, according to the county, was to keep the creek from filling with plants, mud, and other debris that could make the creek more shallow and more prone to jumping the bank. As a part of that plan the county agreed to maintain the creek after the corps made improvements. In recent years, however, the money to perform that maintenance hasn't been on the county's budget.

They have discussed in past meetings the need to perform the work, as well as strategies for meeting that need – including the use of inmate labor from the Little Sandy Correctional Facility. The work, however, still has not been completed.

Grahn resident and fire chief Lonnie Sturgill spoke to the court last Monday about the county's need to perform that maintenance. Sturgill, who explained he served as a magistrate himself at one time, is familiar with the county's responsibilities and their financial hardships. But, he told the court, the work on the creek needs to be completed.

“When I was magistrate, we cleaned it out at least twice,” Sturgill said, noting that they cutout the channel line “down to the concrete” while performing the maintenance. This work was done from where the concrete begins down to the bridge at Oats Hill, he said.

Judge executive Mike Malone agreed with Sturgill about the need to perform the maintenance, explaining that the county had planned on cleaning it up last year, but ran into situations that slowed their planned progress. These included financial shortfalls that made it difficult to allocate county crews to the work and slow progress on plans to utilize inmate labor to do the work of removing trees and other plants that have grown up through and between the cracks of the concrete.

Jason Carroll, county road crew supervisor, said that one of the big issues with maintaining the creek would be the removal of Japanese knotweed, a non-native invasive plants that Carroll said has “taken over” in the creek bed, along with other brush.

Carroll also told the court that he didn't know the county was responsible for cleaning the creek, “all the way down to Oats Hill bridge.” He thought the required maintenance ended with the concrete.

Carroll and Malone, however, assured Sturgill that they did plan to live up to the county's responsibility for maintaining the channel. Malone added that the county was once again looking at the use of inmate labor to complete the work.

In related action, the court approved a request from Carroll to hire a part-time employee to work with jail crews on road work at a rate of $11.50 per hour.

In other action the fiscal court discussed the moving of the right-of-way on Gabe Carroll Cemetery Road. The court approved beginning that process in a previous meeting, but they have not yet started any of the work or approved the final route.

“We know the process for bringing (a road) in (to the county system),” County Attorney Brian Bayes explained, but they want to be clear on the process for moving a road before they begin.

The court also moved to take the compensating rate on taxes before moving to rescind that motion and to keep the county's tax rate at the same level it was in the previous year, at .075 on real estate and .086 on tangibles.

The court also moved to approve the health department rate at .06 for real estate and tangibles, and to approve the rate for the Carter County Ambulance service at .096 on real estate and tangibles.

Carter County's property tax rates are among the lowest in the state based on 2018 information released by the Commonwealth Department of Revenue, Office of Property Valuation.

The court also approved bids for bridge work on Fields Branch, Bowling Drive and Buffalo Creek, with work to begin immediately. They also approved bids for work on Flat Fork and Appaloosa, though they don't yet have funds available to proceed with work on the final two bridges.

Contech was awarded the bid on Fields Branch, at $44,435.61, and on Bowling Drive, at $39,449.24. E&E were awarded the bid for Buffalo Creek, at $77,220, with Malone noting that the creek there is, “so wild, an aluminum bridge was not appropriate.”

Contech was also awarded the bids on the Flat Fork, $44,578.35, and Appaloosa, $55,441.82, when funds become available to proceed with the work.

The court also approved a motion to allow Darby Rayburn to install a guard rail along Well Road at a cost of “around $3,000.” The county had previously approved the installation of beams and steel cable along the road, which has a steep drop-off where it runs next to the Little Sandy River.

They also approved the purchase of a Nissan truck for use by E-911 supervisor Joe Lambert at a cost of $19,000.

In department reports deputy Buddy Grayson gave the report for Sheriff Jeff May. Grayson noted that the county has lost another deputy, this one to the city of Olive Hill, who left for a pay increase of two dollars an hour. Grayson repeated a plea that May has made many times about the need to increase pay to retain qualified deputies.

While no action was taken on Monday night to approve a pay increase for the department, Malone told the court it was “something we can't dodge any longer.”

“We have to keep the county safe,” he said.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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