On a cold December evening in Jenkins, outgoing mayor Charles Dixon got a warm endorsement from Lexington certified public accountant (CPA) Rodney Welch at his final meeting of the Jenkins City Council.
In presenting his audit for Fiscal Year 2009, Welch praised Dixon for his efforts to reduce losses in city agencies and debunked accusations of fiscal improprieties and overcharges in water and sewer rates made by Councilman Terry Braddock. Welch also told the council that it is illegal for anybody but a licensed CPA to claim to conduct an audit of a government agency. Braddock did not attend the meeting.
Welch reported that the city’s net worth has risen by $1.1 million and said it has made great strides in correcting the difference between water treated and water sold. Later in the meeting, Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering told the council it costs approximately $2 per 1,000 gallons of treated water and said the city’s efforts to reduce loss of treated water has already reduced losses by two million to three million gallons per month.
Welch opened his remarks by defining the role of a CPA in preparing an audit, which he presented as a public record available at City Hall for public inspection. He told the council that by law, only a CPA can conduct an audit and for somebody else besides a licensed CPA to conduct an audit is a violation of state law. Welch said only a CPA who has the combination of education, license, and training, and has passed a rigorous test to be qualified as such can conduct an audit legally. He said prosecutions of non-licensed audits are usually conducted by the Kentucky Board of Accountancy, which is a division of state government and oversees accounting practices in Kentucky.
Welch told the council its finances are in generally good shape and said it had benefitted from state efforts to collect taxes on tangible property, which he said had benefitted every community in Kentucky. He remarked that some people in Kentucky have “let’s say” neglected to list tangible property. Welch also handed out copies of a separate report he had prepared concerning revenue in the water and sewer department in response to Braddock’s letters to the Attorney General and his letters to the editor in The
Welch said the accusations had concerned unusually high revenues from the water and sewer department, particularly in water revenues. He directed the council to look at the years from 2008 through 2010 and said that for these three years, the gain in revenue came from grants and intergovernmental funding rather than increases in collections. Under operating charges, in 2008, 2009, and 2010, the water fund collected fees of $909,000 against total operating expenses of $1,292,980, generating losses totaling $344,168. The additional revenue came from nonoperational revenue in the form of grants and intergovernmental funding in the amount of $1,526,000 ($509,000 per year). The sewer fund also showed losses when operating expenses were compared to operating revenues for each of the three years in question and no grant or intergovernmental funds were received to off set the losses.
Mayor Dixon then asked Welch if he had found any evidence of a slush fund operated by Dixon for personal gain and Welch replied that if he (Dixon) had one, it was so well hidden he couldn’t find it.
Dixon also said he and city workers had been accused of complicity in changing meter readings to raise water rates. Welch said that would have to involve manipulation of computers at the water plant and in city offices, and he had seen no evidence of either. He added that the person (Braddock) who made the accusations did not know there is a difference between water and sewer revenue and deposits.
“My conclusion,” said Welch “is they didn’t understand what they were looking at.”
In other business, Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest visited the meeting and told the council he was pleased at its participation in the “meet and greet” evening for Ferus at the Gateway Industrial Park. He thanked the council members on behalf of the Industrial Authority and told them they had done a great job in cooperation with the Authority and pointed to an increase in hope in Letcher County.
“There is more hope in the county now. I saw some at Ferus,” said DePriest. “Didn’t you meet people there you felt like had more hope? Now we have to put action to that hope.”
DePriest told the council there are three more projects underway at the park that are in “the process” and that two have made firm proposals. He said he hopes they turn into clients. He jokingly told the council the Authority is considering changing the name of the park to “Gateway Energy Park” because in the current economic climate, energy companies are the only ones with any money to spend on expansion.
Dixon asked DePriest about the possibility of a new spec building to replace the old one which will be used as Ferus’s offices and DePriest replied that they need one and should have already started building it. He added that representatives of Ferus said the job applicants they have met with so far have been above average.
University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Agent Shad Baker, who lives in Jenkins and volunteers on the Blighted and Deteriorated Property Committee (B&D), presented a computer slide show to illustrate the progress made in removing blighted buildings. The slide show contained text that said that before the city made an effort to begin removing the blighted and deteriorated properties, Jenkins was in danger of becoming a “rural ghetto,” and the option was to let the city fail or take action. Under the leadership of Dixon and the council, the Blighted and Deteriorated Property Committee has been successful in taking down a number of deteriorated houses and cleaning up the lots to create sites for homes.
Mayor Dixon told Baker and the audience that of all the progress made by B&D, the one he is most happy with would take place on the following day when three houses on Highway 805 leading into Jenkins are taken down. He said they are not only an eyesore, but also represent a real danger of falling into the road. Baker jokingly said that Dixon had probably made 50 phone calls to him asking about progress and that he received one of Dixon’s “famous lists” as soon as he volunteered for the committee.
“He is a constant encourager,” said Baker. “I want to thank you, Mr. Dixon. By getting other people involved, you have multiplied your effect.”
Jim Scott of McRoberts, who chairs the county’s Committee on Blighted and Deteriorated Property, also spoke to the council and said he had been tasked by Judge/Executive Jim Ward in removing blighted and deteriorated property and said his first task had been to establish a database that identified the property and the owners. Scott said it had been a daunting task that required considerable hard work, but that by sending letters to the owners of the properties, he has gotten permission to remove a number of houses.
Scott said the county does not take liens on the properties, which makes it more attractive for the owners to cooperate so they will have a piece of usable land or one which can be sold. He told the council if it wants to participate in the county effort, it will need to tell Judge Ward it wants to get into the county’s program. Scott said that at present the county’s efforts have been confined to unincorporated areas of the county. He said he has found a number of places in Letcher County he didn’t know had existed. Dixon thanked Scott for coming to the meeting and told the assembly that Scott had played on the last undefeated football team at Jenkins High School in 1957.
In other council business:
• Summer Powers asked the council about renting the old Flower House building for the site of a new medical supply business. Powers said she and her husband David, who is a pharmacist, have purchased Boggs Pharmacy and will take over January 1. She said they also plan to expand the business to include supplying durable medical care equipment. City Attorney Randall Tackett said the city will need to determine the floor plan to set a price per square foot. Powers said it will take six to nine months to obtain Medicare certification so there is enough time before they will need the building.
• The monthly water loss report showed a 42 percent unaccounted for loss of treated water, slightly higher than in previous months. Water Superintendent Bo Hopkins said the larger loss was partially due to a leak in a line in Wheaton Hollow that ran behind and under several houses and had been very difficult to locate. He said the Wheaton Hollow leak probably accounted for about 20 percent of the unaccounted for losses. The city produced 12,889,000 gallons of treated water in November and sold 4,013,000 for a diff erence of 8,876,000 gallons or 69 percent. Of that, 5,409,000 (42 percent) were unaccounted losses.
• Paul Nesbitt gave the Engineering Report and told the council that work on Phase I of the city’s water line replacement project is going well and that Phase II should go to bid in three to four months so work can commence as soon as Phase I is complete. Nesbitt said the city has made tremendous progress in getting its water losses down and the water line replacements will save a considerable amount on the losses incurred due to leaks of treated water. He said the contractor, K. Carrington and Sons of London, are still turning up lines carrying city water that don’t show up on any plans and the challenge will be in making sure everything except the new lines is turned off .
• Burdine resident Chad Anderson told the council he had witnessed an attempted break-in at the Burdine Post Office. Anderson and his wife live in an apartment over the post office and he said he had seen a man trying to break into mailboxes outside the building and called 911. Jenkins Police Officer Anthony Maggard responded and arrested the perpetuator, who, Anderson said, resisted and continually reached into his shirt and pocket for what Anderson said he thought was a knife. Anderson said the actions of Officer Maggard had been exemplary and that Maggard would probably have been justified in using deadly force in making the arrest, but instead used a Taser on the suspect. Anderson praised Maggard for his professionalism and asked the city to commend his actions.
• In the Police Report, Chief Adam Swindall reported that the department responded to 103 complaints and made seven arrests. It served four summonses and issued 12 citations and nine warnings. Officers responded to 13 vehicle accidents, in which seven involved injuries. Swindall said one officer had given 30 days’ notice that he was leaving to accept another position and that the officer was leaving under good terms. He said a replacement candidate had been recommended by the Jenkins Police Commission and he had begun the process of testing and background investigations on the candidate.
• Jim Polly of the Planning Commission told the council the commission will present a detailed plan for the Centennial Celebration at the council’s February meeting. He said one certainty is that a new history book to accompany the initial history book created by Mayor Charles Dixon in 1972 will be done and will feature previously unreleased photos from the Smithsonian Institute.
• Councilman Chuck Anderson reported on the Christmas Parade, which took place on December 4, and said it was a success despite bad weather. He said the next Homecoming Festival Committee meeting will be held on December 14 at City Hall at 7 p.m. and the public is welcome. Council member Rebecca Terrill Amburgey added that the committee could use a few new members.
• Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders told the council that Intermountain Cable has agreed to place a marquee in the City Park to advertise upcoming events that can be seen from the road. Sanders said the marquee will be four by eight feet and will be lighted.
• The council passed the second reading of Ordinance 220, which will modify the franchise agreement between the city and Intermountain Cable to allow for an alternative payment location instead of maintaining an office in the city.
• Dixon presented the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to the council and asked for comment before it is presented to the Kentucky River Area Development district. No changes were made.
• The council voted to bid two properties on Mudtown Hill which have been removed as blighted and deteriorated and cleaned, separately and together, and then determine whether it is more advantageous for the city to sell them as individual units or as one property after bids are received.
• Mayor Dixon announced a transition team for newly elected Mayor G.C. Kincer composed of himself, Ked Sanders and Todd DePriest. Kincer, who attended the meeting, thanked Dixon. Kincer asked that a planned swearing in ceremony be held in the Jenkins Public Library so he and his wife could provide refreshments for those attending. The date will be sometime between Christmas and January 1.
• Ked Sanders, Shad Baker, and Paul Thomas Greer were all honored by Mayor Dixon as unsung heroes for their voluntary service to the city.