The fiscal court voted to allow the Southeast Education Foundation to pursue a loan up to $120,000 to fund the operations of the School House Inn, using the inn as collateral for the loan.
“What we have here is an opportunity to borrow some money against the Benham Inn that would buy time until we can see what the legislators and state are going to do next spring,” Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop said regarding the loan. “Being that we are the owner of the property, we have to do something to protect the building and give it the best shot to move in the right direction.”
David Kennedy, the magistrate for District 3, asked about the availability of recently appropriated adventure tourism coal severance funds.
“We voted to use some of that adventure tourism money on that (the Benham Inn), and I would just need to know where we stand on that,” Kennedy said.
“The money in that category has not been made available yet,” Grieshop responded.
District 4 Magistrate Jim Roddy asked how the facility is currently surviving.
“In October, the inn actually made money because of the fall season. With that being said, November and December are negative months,” responded Paul Pratt, a representative for the School House Inn. “They gave it back to us at the worst possible time. Until about April we show a deficit every month.”
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College President Bruce Ayers said the loan will allow the facility to continue operations.
“I think our original estimate of having a deficit at the end of the year of about $120,000 is still pretty accurate to be honest with you,” he said. “We are trying to separate the mining museum and the exhibition mines so they wont be a draw on the inn. I do want you to know that we are doing everything we can to help sustain these properties.”
Grieshop later addressed the recently issued county-wide burning ban.
“I declared a burning ban last week. Is it all right to lift that?” he asked the court.
“The forestry department is asking that we keep it until Dec. 15,” responded Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill.
Kennedy said he has received several calls regarding the ban.
“I have had a lot of calls on that burning ban. We are holding a lot of people up,” he said.
“If they can wait a couple of weeks I think it’s for the safety of our citizens. I always listen to what the forestry people recommend,” Grieshop responded. “We had some fires in the Coldiron area, and it is very difficult for people to live in their house when that fire is going on around them. If everyone can just hang in there I would like to continue it until Dec. 15.”
McGill said the recent rain has done little to subdue the threat of uncontrolled fires.
“We have gotten a little rain, but it is only the top layer. If you move the top layer of the brush it is still going to be extremely dry underneath there, and that is what they are talking about,” he said.
The court approved a motion to continue with the fire ban.
In other action, the court:
•• Accepted Angel Lane, a spur off Jenny Hill, into the county’s road plan pending the approval of county engineer Leo Miller;
•• Approved a motion to pay election officers retroactive to Nov. 4, 2008;
•• Approved the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office Revenue Bond: $3,000,000 for the office and $50,000 performance bond for the sheriff;
•• Accepted agreement and resolution adopting and approving the execution of a Rural Secondary Emergency Agreement between the Harlan County Fiscal Court and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Department of Rural and Municipal Aid and authorized the judge-executive to sign any and all documents;
(Another article pertaining to Monday’s Harlan County Fiscal Court meeting will appear in Wednesday’s edition of the Harlan Daily Enterprise)