With the coal industry in a slump, that results in less money coming to coal producing counties in the form of coal severance money.
This is resulting in less revenue that counties had long come accustomed to receiving.
It’s not only counties seeing a reduction, but many small municipalities are experiencing hardships with less coal severance monies coming into their coffers.
Elkhorn City is one such municipality.
Recently, Pike County Judge-Executive Ray S. Jones II addressed the Elkhorn City council to talk about thinking outside the box to create revenue.
Jones explained that statewide figures released by the Kentucky Coal and Mineral County Coalition showed that for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, coal severance money collected was $12.1 million which was slightly over the projection of $11.5 million. For minerals, in the same quarter, severance collected was $6.9 million which was below the projection of $8.6 million. Most of the loss came from natural gas and oil.
“Kentucky’s coal severance tax collected peaked in FY 2012 at $298.3 million in receipts,” Jones said. “Compare that to $60.1 million last year.”
“Last year there were only 30.3 million tons of coal mined in all of Kentucky,” Jones explained. “That is less than what Pike County mined 24 years ago itself.
“This shows that the coal industry is dismal and not likely to come back,” Jones said.
Outside the box thinking, Jones said, is in order.
“We’re going to have to think outside the box in terms of what we do for eastern Kentucky because we can’t bank on the coal industry coming back,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to put people back to work. I think Elkhorn City has the potential to be the hub of tourism for all of Eastern Kentucky.”
The ATV trail system currently in the works could produce not only jobs but much-needed revenue for the region.
“The trail system could be a boon to Elkhorn City,” Jones said. “It can help bring substantial growth and it will come right through Elkhorn.”
The proposed trail will start at Flatwoods, come down Elkhorn Creek into Elkhorn City, cross back up Beaver, go back into the middle of Phelps and tie in at the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in West Virginia go through Blackberry and into Martin County.
“Elkhorn City is uniquely poised not just because of the natural resources but you’re going to have the county’s biggest industrial site (John Moore Branch) here and the county will have a deed to that,” Jones said. “And we’re going to have to work together.
“I’m convinced that Elkhorn City will see growth when the road (new U.S. 460) opens up,” Jones said. “You’re going to be closer to Pikeville and open you up to Virginia.”
The possibilities for the city, Jones said, are endless.
“The sky’s the limit for Elkhorn City,” Jones concluded.
When completed in the next few years, the trail system will be approximately 1,400 miles.