The Harlan Fiscal Court is considering proposals from three interested parties concerning the future of the Benham Inn.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley presented three separate bids to the court for consideration during a meeting on Monday.
Mosley first read a bid from The Appalachian Hospitality Group LLC. AHG President Clifton Travis Warf was on hand to represent his company.
“It’s a very thorough proposal,” said Mosley. “Mr. Warf is a 2001 graduate of Cumberland High School, he’s worked at the Inn in the past. He was first employed as a dishwasher but quickly placed in the role of head cook. He joined the National Guard and was deployed in October of 2001 following the September 11 attacks. He was stationed in North Carolina for approximately a year.”
Mosley pointed out Warf has also worked for CSX Transportation, and started his own transportation business, Warf Enterprises, in Richmond in 2012.
Mosley then opened a proposal submitted by David S. Farmer of Wallins Creek.
According to Farmer’s proposal, he owned and operated the Harlan Station Restaurant for the past 36 months.
“Sadly, structural problems with the building forced us out this spring, and a suitable building has not been found within the city,” Mosley read from Farmer’s proposal. “We not only had a great restaurant but also are licensed caterers and hold a state alcohol license.”
Farmer’s proposal also states he is a former coal miner and his family has over 20 years experience in the restaurant business.
The final proposal Mosley read to the court was submitted by Soloe Mountain Times Winery and Resort, owner Billy Soloe.
“Billy Soloe graduated from Evarts High School in 1982,” Mosley said. “He attended Black Mountain Elementary School. His grandfather and many family members were coal miners here in Harlan County. They own 32 acres of land in Harlan that has been in their family since the 1920s.”
Mosley said Soloe has served as a coach and referee, worked with the Boy Scout troop in Kenvir as well as being actively engaged in politics. Soloe has managed apartments in Las Vegas, Nevada and is a member of Brittains Creek Missionary Baptist Church.
After a lengthy discussion including questioning of the interested parties, a motion was made to begin lease negotiations with Appalachian Hospitality Group. The motion did not pass, with the vote resulting in a tie.
Magistrate Bill Moore said he would like more time to go over the proposals before making a decision.
The court passed a motion to refer the issue to the next meeting to allow the magistrates time to review the three proposals before making a final decision.
Mosley asked the representatives of the proposing entities to return for a special-called meeting on May 24.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde