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Recognizing graduates in Harlan pits the city and county against each other. Who has the authority?

From WRIL -

Recognizing graduates in Harlan now setting the city and county against each other.


Based on a livestream of a Harlan County Board of Education meeting on Thursday night May 20th and actions by Harlan city Mayor Joe Meadors, we are working on a story that is keeping the city of Harlan and the county at odds.

Mayor Meadors, the former chair of Harlan Independent Board of Education, has used utility poles in the city to highlight city high school graduates with the placement of banners of students. Meadors has taken the step of refusing to do the same for the county even after being approached by Harlan County Superintendent Brent Roark to consider the same recognition of their students.

One of main questions is whether or not Meadors has the authority to use those utility poles as he sees fit. It was initially thought that Harlan Tourism had purchased and placed the banners due to past usage of event promotions and Christmas lights, but that was not the case.


While Harlan Independent has roughly 30 graduates, leaving multiple poles open for use, Mayor Meadors chose to also place messages on the remaining poles instead of considering county students for recognition.

Many in the community that have reached out to us are reminding those running the city that several people from the county also work and spend money in the city and the same opportunities should be afforded both schools.


No suggestion of removing the current graduates from recognition has been made by the Harlan County School Board, only that county students be treated the same. Mayor Meadors has suggested that the county school use their utility poles to do the same, but they have no authority to do so since it would be illegal.


We have seen the Harlan County School Board's stance in the livestream and will be contacting Mayor Meadors for more information along with the public service commission and utility companies to see who ultimately has jurisdiction over the use of the poles.


The KY General Assembly has very defined usage rules and protocols on the pole usage and is clear in the 807 KAR 5:015 that "nondiscriminatory" use is a top priority.


We hope to have more on this soon.

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