MARTIN — The Martin Community Center may reopen soon, but as city council members learned Tuesday, the city has significant debt burdens to overcome.
According to Mayor Sam Howell, the debt in question is the seemingly never-ending list of unpaid debts that the new administration has found since taking office.
On Tuesday, Howell informed the council that the city has been made aware that they owe $19,000 to AEP for power bills related to the wastewater plant which have not been paid since May. Howell said AEP officials told him that several attempts had been made over the last year to make contact with the city to secure payment. He added that AEP has agreed to a payment plan to add $2,500 onto each month’s bills until the account is current.
Howell also said an agreement with Prestonsburg City Utilities had been reached on the Martin’s $44,000 water bill, which had not been paid since October. According to the mayor, the utility has agreed to waive some of the penalties and Martin will be responsible for an additional $4,500 to each bill until that account is brought current.
The city is also on the hook for a $3,500 bond payment for its wastewater treatment plant, which must be paid at the beginning of each month, which adds up to just over $10,000 a month that the city must spend in addition to its normal operating expenses in order to dig itself out of debt.
Howell said he believes the city has the money to cover the expenses. However when asked why, if the city has the money to cover the bills, they had not been paid for several months, Howell needed to consult with city attorney Clyde Johnson before issuing an answer.
“At this moment, I can’t give you a definite answer on that, but we’re looking into it,” Howell said.
An additional problem which could add to the city’s financial obligations in the future was the rather lengthy discussion of the Martin Volunteer Fire Department, and whether or not the city could afford to hire some paid members.
The discussion began after council member Charles Justice passed a sheet of paper to the mayor and questioned him about a recent fire at the home of a relative of former Mayor Thomasine Robinson. Justice said he was under the impression that Martin had responded to the fire only after Maytown had arrived, which caused an angry stir from firefighters in the audience.
Martin Volunteer Fire Chief William Petry said that information was incorrect, and that at least three of Martin’s volunteer firefighters were on the scene before units from Maytown arrived.
Howell said the problem of slow response times was common in volunteer fire departments, which do not have anyone present in the station at all times. Petry said the fire started after midnight, which he said was hardest time to get people out. Petry said he believed the home belonged to the mother of Thomasine Robinson.
Petry also told the council that the fire department’s pagers were turned off for two weeks before anyone was made aware.