The Harlan Fiscal Court is one step closer to resolving the question of who will operate the Benham Schoolhouse Inn, with the court agreeing to pursue lease negotiations with Appalachian Hospitality Group during a meeting on Tuesday.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley brought the subject up to the court, advising one of the three entities that had submitted a proposal had expressed intent to withdraw their offer.
“We received three proposals at the last court meeting,” Mosley said. “I trust everyone has had the ability to review those…I’d received a message from Mr. (Billy) Soloe that expressed his intent to withdraw his proposal. Now, I never received written notice that he was withdrawing it…He’s not present today.”
According to a previous report, Soloe is the owner of Soloe Mountain Times Winery and Resort, which submitted a proposal during the previous fiscal court meeting.
Mosley said since he had not received a formal written withdrawal, the court should still consider the proposal from Soloe Mountain Times Winery and Resort to be on the table.
The other entities which had submitted proposals were represented in the courtroom. Appalachian Hospitality Group President Travis Warf represented his company, while Lisa Farmer was present to answer any questions concerning the proposal submitted by her and her husband, David S. Farmer. The Farmers operated the Harlan Station Restaurant.
The court first addressed the proposal from the Appalachian Hospitality Group.
“There are things in Mr. Warf’s proposal that are feasible, and there are things that are not feasible for us to comply with,” Mosley told the court. “Those things would be ironed out in the lease negotiation. If we entered into lease negotiations with him and his group and we weren’t able to negotiate a lease that he was agreeable to and we were agreeable to, then we would go to the next person that you deem appropriate to run the place. Same way with Mr. and Mrs. Farmer.”
Magistrate James Howard questioned a provision in Warf’s proposal concerning the possible subletting of the Inn.
“After one year, it gives him the right to sublet the business,” Howard said. “We need to have final approval…we’re responsible for a lot of stuff here.”
Warf addressed the question from his seat in the courtroom.
“I know that is a little bit of an odd request in a proposal,” Warf said. “It would only be done through the court’s approval…the only reason I put that in there is from an investment standpoint – providing that I do go into the Inn and turn it around and make it profitable – if that were to happen, that would just give me the option to sublease it. I would still administer it.”
Warf said he would still be responsible for the lease with the county.
Mosley asked if he would have an issue with a lease stating any sublease agreement require fiscal court approval. Warf stated he would have no problem with such a requirement.
After more questioning and discussion, a motion was made to enter into lease negotiations for the operations of the Benham Inn with Appalachian Hospitality Group. Should negotiations fail the matter is to be brought back in front of the fiscal court. The motion passed with no opposition.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde