Pike Judge-Executive Ray Jones took time during the June 10 meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court to defend the court’s work and ask that people be reasonable and have realistic expectations of what the court can do.
“We’re making progress for this county, but I’m asking for the people to be reasonable,” he said.
Jones said the county has received a lot of criticism. In some cases, he said, the criticism has come over things that are not within the court’s control.
“We’re going to live within our means, we’re going to do things with the revenue we have coming in, we’re going to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely and efficiently,” he said. “But I want to address some of these issues … because this expectation of instant service is not reasonable in light of the financial and logistical hurdles that this county is facing.”
Jones said that one issue raised recently is that of the closure of the marina at Fishtrap Lake, which is the result of a decision by the federal government and not something within the court’s control.
“Every year for three years now we have cleaned that lake up better than it has been cleaned up in many years,” he said.
However, Jones said, the marina has fallen into disrepair and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the lake, ordered it shut down.
“We learned that the marina had been shut down by the order of the Army Corps of Engineers,” he said. “The Corps of Engineers took us out on a boat and took us around the marina … Large parts of the structure of the marina were washed out into the middle of the lake. Other parts were washed up next to the dam and spillway in the pile of garbage that was being removed by the Corps and the fiscal court.”
The existing marina, Jones said, is unsafe, with boards rotted and numerous other problems, which has prompted the Corps of Engineers to order the existing marina owners to remove the marina.
The Corps, he said, will be issuing a bid for the construction of a new marina. The process, Jones said, is outside the control of the Pike County Fiscal Court.
Jones said the court has also been taking heat over the changes in driver’s licensing, with the Pike Circuit Court Clerk’s Office no longer being able to issue driver’s licenses and, instead, with the licensing being done from a regional office.
Jones said that issue stems from the REAL ID Act, which requires a new licensure process in order to increase the safety of travel in the United States, post Sept. 11, 2001.
Because of that change, he said, the driver’s licensing was moved from the state’s circuit court clerks to the state Transportation Cabinet. And an impact is that the licensing is now being done from regional offices.
“Right now, the regional office that will serve Pike County will be in Prestonsburg,” he said.
Jones said the issue is out of the fiscal court’s control but he has had discussions with Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration about the issue.
“There are things we can address at the fiscal court level,” he said. “There are things we have no authority to address.”
Jones said broadband is one of those issues. A study conducted by the court, he said, found that it would cost $150 million to run broadband throughout Pike County. Aside from that cost, broadband expansion is a daunting task for a county like Pike.
“We are trying to do something moving forward,” he said.
A decade ago, Jones said, the the county was collecting roughly $12 million more in coal severance than the current court is collecting. Despite that, he said, the court is attempting to work on establishing a new industrial park at Wolfpit, conduct infrastructure projects, establish ATV trails and more.
Jones, however, pledged that, despite the county’s revenue and infrastructure needs, there will be no tax increases implemented to make that up.
“Your taxes are not going to be raised by the Pike Fiscal Court next year,” he said.
Each of the county’s commissioners also backed up what Jones was saying, with Commissioner Brian Booth also saying, however, that he has heard from several people in recent days who appreciate what the county has done.