Harlan County magistrates are considering two options presented to them on how to spend funds earmarked through a criminal case in Harlan Circuit Court approximately four years ago. These funds were allocated for drug abuse prevention through youth activities and facilities.
At a special called meeting of the Harlan Fiscal Court on Thursday, members of the Harlan County Recreation Committee, appointed by the court several years ago, presented two plans, using the $500,000 court designated funds, to benefit the youth of Harlan County.
Committee member Charlie Powers presented the first project asking that the funds be used for renovation of the old Loyall Swimming Pool and developing a Youth Recreation Center at the facility.
“I think we have a great opportunity here,” said Powers. “Not only do we have the swimming pool, which is probably over a $1 million pool…We looked at a new pool, but a new one would cost $1 million to $2.5 million, but we don’t have the money. I think with the city of Loyall’s help with the insurance and maybe the Harlan County Community Action Agency helping with employment, I think it can be self-sustained.”
He added the facility was previously used for indoor basketball, pageant events, youth center with ping pong and pool tables, Boy and Girl Scout events and shuffle board. He said it has a new roof and is air conditioned in the lounge and chapel. It also has a kitchen and two apartments overhead.
Powers went on to say 2,000 surveys were taken from youth throughout the county and the most popular choice for recreation was a public swimming pool.
The second project presented was for trail development at the old Putney Ranger Station, Goss Park and equestrian activities including stables at Kingdom Come State Park.
Committee member Tracy Bailey told court members youth activities in the trail development project would include things such as teaching youth proper equine procedures and grooming, outdoor outings, trail rides, expose youth to veterinarian practices and techniques, meal preparation on the trail, instill good work ethics by project completion, teach customer service techniques and public relations, develop testimonials to share with other groups and organizations, develop ways to assist other people groups in the country, develop good character traits, teach facility care, tack care and maintenance and teach plant, tree and flower identification along the trail.
“This project will expand a program that is already proven it serves over 1,000 children a year,” said Bailey. “It has the potential to serve thousands more.”
Bailey speaking to the court said, “You have an important role in the future of Harlan County. In a day and age where there is very little economic hope in our area…where our jail system is one of the biggest incomes Harlan County has, you are charged with a way to make all these things better. The Recreation Committee wants to see something good come for Harlan County and its next generation. “
Harlan County Attorney Fred Busroe was asked for a legal opinion on the second project and he said he felt it didn’t qualify under the language used in the circuit court order regarding the use of the appropriated funds.
A roll call vote was taken on whether to designate the funds for the two projects and magistrates Jonathan Pope, David Kennedy and Delbert Stephens voted yes. Magistrates Bill Moore and Jim Roddy, along with Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop voted no. Moore offered a explanation as to why he voted no being he wanted more time to look at the proposals. Grieshop said he voted no because he wanted to hold the funds a while longer and perhaps use them as “leverage” in a SOAR project or use it in some way with the Promise Zone projects.
“With all due respect, Joe, I read over the Promise Zone and I don’t think this money should be leveraged or used to bring industry in. I think it should be used solely for the youth of the county,” said Stephens. “There is no language in the Promise Zone where I read any facilities is even offered in this — it’s all about education. There’s not even any infrastructure in it.”
A motion was then made and approved to bring the issue back for the court’s consideration at a special called meeting at 10 a.m. on March 11.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, or on Twitter @Nola_hde