County crews prepare for next round of winter weather

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By Jimmie Earls

Washington County Road Department crews have been working diligently to keep roads clear after last week’s snow fall. The department supervisor Albert Wimsatt told the Washington County Fiscal Court on Monday that his workers have been staying busy keeping up with Mother Nature.

“This past Thursday, we worked until midnight to get the roads covered with salt,” Wimsatt reported. “We started at noon on Saturday and worked until 7. We’re getting low on salt. I have about 50 tons left on hand. I usually keep a supply of 200 tons on hand, but since last week, I’ve probably used about 150 tons. I ordered another 100 tons on Friday.”

Wimsatt got a call on Monday morning from Pogo Mann, who is in charge of pupil transportation with the Washington County School District. A few trouble spots were addressed and bus drivers were able to run their routes on a one-hour delay.

“Pogo also wanted to pass along to Albert and his crew how much he appreciated their hard work,” added Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles. “He said the roads were in much better shape than he anticipated, and that’s the reason why they were able to have school on Monday.”

The sub-freezing temperatures have been taking a toll on the county’s vehicles.

“This past Thursday night, we had an awful time keeping stuff going,” said Wimsatt. “We had one truck blow a hose, one truck had fluid blowing out of the transmission, and one truck has a short somewhere. Sometimes it will run fine and then it just quits on us.”

While temperatures later this week are expected to rise above freezing, that will give Wimsatt and his crew time to re-stock salt supplies and ready their equipment for the next round of winter weather. On Monday, the first 25 tons of the additional salt was on its way to the county.

“I’m going to add that 100 tons of salt and then see where I stand, and see how much more room I have left. If I see that I can get another 50 tons or so, then I’m going to try to get it filled back up again. I’m glad we ordered the extra salt because if we would have had another big snow, we wouldn’t have been in too good a shape.”

In other county


• Washington County Solid Waste Coordinator George Ann Palmer is proposing a resolution to the court addressing the problem of waste tires in the county.

“Several years ago, the state general assembly passed legislation with the intent being to rid the commonwealth of waste tires,” Palmer said. “That fund brought in $1.5 million, and over the years, a certain percentage of that money was used by the Division of Waste Management for administrative costs. But because of the downturn in the economy, the division has decided they are going to take all of that amount and use it for personnel and operational costs. If the counties don’t do something about this, then the counties will be responsible for the payment of the removal of waste tires within their county, and that could range from $6,000 to $10,000 line-item budget for counties of our size. We’re currently fighting that with the Division of Waste Management and we have proposed language to the general assembly that would put a cap on the amount of money that could be used for administrative costs. We’re in continuing talks with the division and hopefully we can get things worked out. The resolution is written up if things don’t go through.”

• Palmer also reported that litter abatement funds for the coming year have been reduced by $1,083.57.

“Last year, we received $20,611.06 and this year we got $19,527.49,” Palmer added. “The Division of Waste Management said the reduction was because there were no refunds this year back into the $5 million fund, and counties were given the actual amounts, even though our road miles have gone up since the beginning of the litter abatement program.”

Palmer said Washington County will renegotiate a new agreement with Isaiah House, which will allow the non-profit organization to clean 400 miles of county roads at $40 per mile. The additional 63.71 miles within the county will be offered to other non-profit groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and they will also be paid $40 per mile.

Settles added, “This is a cut to the number of miles that Isaiah House has been doing, but although they are in dire need of funds, we also want them to do a good job, and we’ve had to make some adjustments in the past year over their use of safety equipment and just picking up the bags and so forth.”

“We’ve also had several non-profit groups ask for miles, that’s why the solid waste committee recommends the 63.71 miles to be divided among these other groups,” Palmer added.

The state requires the county to clean the equivalent to 463.71 miles of roads, although high-traffic areas such as major highways and intersections may be cleaned three or four times per year.

•Judge Settles addressed future use of the 1816 Courtroom.

“We had a meeting of the Lincoln Executive Committee on Friday and we’ve gotten to the point now with the funds that we need to do something with the courtroom. We planned a long time ago to make part of this building into a museum incorporating Lincoln heritage along with Washington County history. The committee is asking for approval to hire a consultant to help us plan the use of this room.”

“We have $3,500 set aside to hire a consultant,” said Kathy Elliott, with the Springfield Lincoln Museum. “That funding is coming through the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and it’s a grant through the Kentucky Historical Society. We also have an additional $2,000 to fund cabinetry to display a replica of the Lincoln/Hanks marriage document.”

Magistrate Morris Sweazy asked Elliott what sort of displays could be included, to which she replied, “People could view the maquettes we have, along with paintings and documents. We have two videos that people could watch, and the building would become something like a visitor’s center. Those are just some ideas, but we won’t know for sure until we meet with the consultant.”

Judge Settles added that additional local and state funds could be on the way, but the first step is to formulate a plan for the building.

Magistrate Billy Riney motioned for the approval of the hiring, with a second by magistrate Benjamin Settles. The court voted unanimously in favor.

• Judge Settles appointed a committee to name a new shift supervisor for the Washington County Ambulance Service. The committee will consist of Settles, magistrates Riney and Settles and EMS director Mark Hale.

The next fiscal court meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 22.