The saga of the Benham Schoolhouse Inn took another turn during a meeting of the Harlan Fiscal Court on Tuesday, as the court did not receive any proposals from outside parties concerning running the facility.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley brought up the topic.
No proposals had been submitted.
“We had advertised for proposals for the Benham Inn,” Mosley said. “We had several inquiries, one from California, one from Louisville and one locally. This surprises me. I felt like we would have a couple.”
Magistrate Bill Moore addressed the lack of proposals.
“That tells us something,” Moore said. “We advertised it in three papers and nobody’s interested.”
Mosley said there had been inquiries.
“We had a guy from California call that actually expressed interest in purchasing, which we did not put out as an option,” Mosley said. “We put it out as a lease. We talked with a hotel brokerage firm in Springfield, Missouri, who sent it out to some folks as well. There was a lady that called who is in the bed and breakfast business in Louisville. A couple of local private business owners contacted us, and one we thought until yesterday was going to submit a proposal.”
Magistrate David Kennedy suggested looking into the cost of running the facility.
“I’d like to back up, if we can do this, and take a look and see what it actually cost the county to run that facility prior to (Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College) taking over,” Kennedy said. “In the past the county’s had to pump a lot of money into that inn, but over the last few years it has decreased to the point they were receiving very little help from the county as far as keeping that thing going.”
Kennedy said labor costs have been an issue.
“Frankly what happened — this is just my opinion — they let labor costs just get totally out of hand,” Kennedy said. “That’s what happened to the inn. If we could bring that labor cost back under control, the inn can make it up there.”
Magistrate James Howard suggested a firm may be more attracted to buying the property rather than leasing.
Kennedy requested a cost analysis be done to find what the actual cost to the county would be to run the Benham Inn.
“We don’t know what we’re looking at,” said Kennedy. “I do know that…inn is vital for the development of tourism. Not only for that area, but for the whole county…I’d just like to see what the cost would actually be to the county to keep it open.”
The court decided to do a cost analysis before deciding what options to pursue.
A motion was passed to research what the cost to the county would be to operate the facility.
“I’ve been very clear I can’t support something that’s going to be a burden on the taxpayers,” Mosley said. “But, I’m willing to look at all options because I know how important it is not only to the Tri-Cities but to the county in general.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde