The Floyd County Fiscal Court put companies and contractors on notice this month: If they damage county roads, the county will repair them and send them the bill.
During a meeting on Dec. 17, the fiscal court unanimously approved a resolution requiring companies and independent contractors who damage county roads be held financially responsible for the repairs.
The resolution states that it is "in no way" intended to deter progress and/or jobs in Floyd County.
It explains that if a mining, logging, reclamation, utility, waste disposal or "any other company or independent contractor" damages a county road, then that company or contractor would have to pay for the repairs.
The resolution states that if a company or contractor damages a county road and/or the county judge or the road foreman deem it unsafe, the county will repair the damages and send the invoice to the company or contractor. The company will be billed for the repair work and labor, including overtime, as well as road materials and equipment usage, the resolution says.
The resolution was approved after Sugarloaf Branch resident John Fraley addressed the fiscal court to complain about damage he said a mining company has caused to his road.
"The situation is not going away, guys," Fraley said. "It ain't. Nobody's trying to stop anybody from making a living. That ain't what this is about, but at the same time, I don't think that I should be spending the money that I make destroying the stuff I buy. You understand what I'm getting at? We've been reaching out, trying to get help, trying to get help. The problem's not going away."
He said he and his neighbors don't think it's right for their tax dollars to be used to repairs damages caused by a company.
"I can't see for the life of me how we're continuously spending our tax dollars on something that's not getting no better. You see what I'm saying? Within two days, we're back to the same shape it was," he said.
He called the road an "absolute muddy mess." He said the county put gravel on the road this fall and it was gone within three days.
"We might as well just took $2,000 and just throwed it out the window," Fraley said.
Magistrate Mark Crider reported that the county has spent probably $100,000 on repairs for that road this year.
"It's better than it was, but it's not where it needs to be," Judge-Executive Robbie Williams said about the road. "If you're going to operate a business in Floyd County, you going to be neighborly. You're going to clean up your mess."
He said it's a county-wide problem.
"It's not just your issue," he told Fraley. "It's a issue we've had, we've got in several other places, and we're going to have to address it. We just need to hold these businesses accountable. I'm in business. I'm held accountable. We're held accountable here as a fiscal court, if we don't do things right, and I don't think anyone is doing anything intentionally. I think a lot of times what happens is you get caught up in the aspect of 'we have to produce,' 'we have to keep people working,' 'we have to produce, and sometimes, some of these things get away from us — maintaining roads and some of the things that we should do. Sometimes we just, we need a little wake-up call."
Prior to the vote, Williams asked Bartley whether the county would face issues approving the resolution.
"I haven't had a chance, obviously, to dig into that because this is the first time I've seen it," Bartley said. "But, I do think that, depending upon the fact circumstances, that, you know, there are employers that could be held responsible for any damages to our roads. The question will become, obviously, is it just normal wear and tear, or is it damages? In some cases, you'll have a little bit of both. So, it depends on the circumstances."
Williams emphasized that it's not the county's intent to have companies to repair normal wear and tear.
"We're looking for situations, if it's an emergency situation that, you know, we can't get in touch with the business owner and there's something that needs to be taken care of that day or that night," Williams said. "That's certainly what we're looking at."
Crider said he's reached out to businesses representatives who said they don't have the equipment or the manpower to repair the damages and complained about using county road crews to repair damages done by companies.
"If we're going to work for them, we might as well be on the payroll," he said.
Bartley emphasized that coal companies pay taxes for road usage and coal severance taxes to fix roads.
"I think you may have a hard time double-dipping there," Bartley said.
Williams said the damages are also caused by other types of companies.
Bartley said the fiscal court approved a similar resolution years ago, but said he doesn't see a problem approving another one.
Officials talked about the need to assess each situation individually.
Crider, who said some of the roads "get unbearable to travel," also complained about coal trucks speeding in his district, asking the sheriff to look into it.
In other news, the fiscal court also:
• Approved paying about $853,000 in bills, with $200,000 in the general fund, $548,000 in the road fund, $64,000 in the jail fund and $25,000 in the Local Government Economic Assistance Fund. The county paid more than $333,000 to Mountain Enterprises for numerous asphalt jobs, and it also paid $153,000 to pay the principal and interest on a road bond taken out under the prior administration.
• Hired Brandon Wilson, Sarah Rour, Charlie Akers, Dustin Stumbo, Aaron Inmon and Penny Boyd as part-time deputies a the jail, with officials reporting it's an effort to cut down on overtime.
• Hired Greg Cooley and Josh Conley as road workers.
• Authorized Williams to sign a memorandum of agreement for a federal grant in partnership with the Floyd County Sheriff, Mountain Comprehensive Care Center, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, Big Sandy Healthcare and the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund.
• Approved a $132,000 state advancement for the sheriff's department and payment of $2,600 for a $500,000 revenue bond for the sheriff.
• Approved paying more than $217,300 for election-related expenses in 2019.
• Approved renewing an affiliation agreement with the Floyd County Emergency & Rescue Squad.
• Adopted a 300 ft. section of Derek Drive, near Ky. 302, as a county road, with officials reporting this road is already in the county system and the resolution was needed to clean up county maps.
Magistrate Mike Tackett was not present for the meeting.