Many meaningful things have happened in the spring of 2016 leading into a hot summer in the hills of Harlan County.
In May, we celebrated the grand opening of the Teleworks USA Harlan hub. Already, a dozen people have gone to work thanks to this opportunity! The first class comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds, thoroughly enjoyed their experience. This program which is allowing individuals to receive a four week training class, and then connecting them with a company to do a home based internet job, will provide an employment solution for the people in our county who are still unemployed. If you are interested in participating in the program, stop by the Harlan Teleworks USA hub on Skidmore Drive next to Dairy Hut and speak to April Leisge.
Earlier this spring, we also celebrated the joint project with the Harlan Rotary Club to provide a sensory smart playground for children with disabilities. This is located at the Dressen Park here in Harlan and has already been visited by thousands of children, including school groups from adjacent counties. Each time I go by there and see a child enjoying this new playground brings a smile to my face. I thank the Harlan Rotary Club for their vision and I am so humbled the fiscal court and I could work with these great individuals to bring this project to fruition. I ask each of you to help us take care of this treasure for the children who are enjoying it.
Additional plans are underway for the Dressen Park. We presently have a grant application submitted to construct a skate park at this location. We are hopeful to receive the grant and should know something this fall if it is awarded. More than 30 people attended a public hearing to show support for this project and a local businessman committed to match funding for the grant if it is awarded.
Continued improvements have been made at the Stone Mountain Boat Dock. A floating pier has been constructed on the lake for visitors and citizens to enjoy. Primitive campsites have been developed on the property, and we have developed a residence on site where a Harlan County sheriff’s deputy is residing to provide additional security for the property. Boat slips are still available for this season. If you are interested, visit the Stone Mountain Boat Dock, or call Boat Dock Manager Larry Grubbs at 606-573-4802. Another floating pier is being installed presently at Highsplint Lake with plans for another one at Martin’s Fork Lake in 2017.
I was happy to cast the tie-breaking vote on the fiscal court to lease the Benham Inn property to Mr. Clifton Travis Warf of the newly-formed Appalachian Hospitality Group for a term of one year with an option for him to renew at the end of the one year term. Mr. Warf is a native of the Tri-Cities area and worked at the Benham Inn for several years before finishing his education and starting a successful trucking company. His emotional connection to the Benham Inn is shared by many of us and I am confident that he will work diligently to improve the Benham Inn and expand the services that it currently provides to Harlan County. The transition of the Inn took place on July 1.
The Harlan County Fiscal Court unanimously reached an agreement to enter into an Operations Agreement with the Harlan County Tourism Commission for two years to operate Portal 31. Former Harlan County Road Department Foreman Marvin Goins, a Lynch native, has transitioned to Portal 31 to become the Director of Operations & Maintenance at Portal 31 and Lynch Depot. He is passionate about seeing Portal 31 flourish and will focus on expanding the hours Portal 31 is open and developing a gift shop and information center to tell more about the history of the Appalachian mining culture. For more information on Portal 31 or to schedule a tour, call 606-848-3131.
Just a few weeks ago, some areas of our county experienced significant flooding. A rain gauge north of Harlan recorded 6.02 inches of rainfall during the evening of June 21. Statewide Emergency Management personnel have been here evaluating the damage. Almost 15 crossings were either washed out or bridges were swept away by the rapid waters. The road department has been working diligently to get everything back to order. All residents that lost access across a creek or river had a temporary crossing before the week ended that the flooding occurred. We are still working on repair to bridges and appreciate the patience showed by those impacted. It doesn’t appear that FEMA or SBA will provide assistance to those who suffered loss. A few of our friends and neighbors’ residences were completely destroyed near the Bledsoe area. Let’s rally around these people and offer to help them. Marsha Blackburn once said, “In this dangerous world that we live in, where hatred, violence, and natural disasters sometimes collide to almost overwhelm us, we each can help in some way.”
If you need or want to contact me, you can call my office at 606-573-2600. You can email me at [email protected] or write to me P.O. Box 956 Harlan, Ky. 40831. As always, I would love to hear from you. Also, feel free to drop in and see me any time I can be of assistance. My office is located on the top floor of the old courthouse. Thank you!