To many who attended the first of six scheduled “Jenkins Cruise In and Burnouts” events, the smoke sent rising from a stationary police cruiser’s spinning tires represented the highlight of the Saturday night show. To others, including at least one member of the Jenkins City Council, the burnout represented a misuse of city property.
At issue is a widely shared — albeit distant and crude — video of the burnout, which was recorded by cellular telephone and posted on Facebook, YouTube and other social media websites. The video became a cause for concern to city officials when Councilman Chuck Anderson called the actions of the young police officer behind the wheel into question. Anderson said he had heard a number of complaints from citizens who thought the burnout showed a disregard for city-owned property and an unnecessary wear on tires paid for with tax dollars.
Anderson voiced his complaint Monday night at the Jenkins council’s May meeting, just after he criticized Jenkins Police Chief Roland Craft for taking a renewed effort to enforce the city’s automobile sticker tax law a little too far.
Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer told Anderson that he was out of town when the event took place and would not have given the police department permission to an active part in the “cruise in and burnout.” Although Chief Craft was present for the burnout and appeared on the video to be encouraging and even instructing the officer who performed it, Mayor Kincer promised Anderson that no city-owned police cruiser would be peeling rubber for fun again.
On Tuesday, Jenkins City Manager Todd DePriest said city officials have since learned that the officer driving the cruiser, Joe Holbrook, had actually put a set of old tires on the cruiser before the burnout so that he would not damage the new tires which were placed on the cruiser just recently.
Mayor Kincer blamed the entire episode on “overexuberance” by the police department, which “didn’t understand that had to be OK’d by the administration.” Kincer said he plans to discuss the matter with Chief Craft when Craft returns to duty later this week.
Anderson’s complaint about police participation in the burnout came after he said police went too far in their attempts to enforce the city sticker ordinance when cars without stickers on display were issued citations even though the owner had purchased a sticker.
Anderson said he understands that the ordinance calls for the sticker to be displayed, but the clause has been largely ignored for the past few years. He said the action by police came as a shock to people who were ticketed even though they had purchased stickers.
Kincer also said a graduated fine system had been implemented with a $10 late charge if someone comes into city hall and purchases a sticker after the deadline, and a $20 fine if they are caught by police without a sticker. Both fines also require a sticker to be purchased for $10.
City Attorney Randall Tackett said the original ordinance calls for a fine of no less than $20 and the new system is invalid. Councilman Robert Adams said the ordinance was written in 1986 and suggested the council take the city sticker issue up at the same special meeting it holds to discuss the solid waste deficit. Anderson then moved that warnings be issued for sticker violations until a new policy is set. The council voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Kincer told the council that the stepped-up enforcement effort began after Craft looked at the large number of non-purchased city stickers kept in a box at city hall.
In other business, the council learned the city has lost $23,130.00 on solid waste in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. After City Manager DePriest made the announcement, Kincer told council that he, along with Mayor Pro-Tem Robert “Pud” Schubert and DePriest, have consulted on the deficit, which he said is unsustainable, and recommended an increase in garbage rates from $12.25 to $14 a month.
Council member Rebecca Terrill- Amburgey said the city should promote blue bag recycling, but Kincer replied that the deficit was the result of increased tipping (dump) fees at the landfill and that while he wants to do everything he can to increase participation in recycling, the lightweight recyclables such as aluminum cans, paper, and plastic will not offset the increase in tipping fees. Terrill- Amburgey then suggested the council hold a special meeting for a work session to discuss all the options. Kincer asked Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, who was at the meeting, if he anticipated another hike in tipping fees. Ward said he does not think there will be a hike in the near future.
City Finance Officer Robin Kincer told the council that she had just completed the 2013-2014 city budget for the first reading later in the meeting and that the cost increases for health insurance for city employees would impact the solid waste budget as well. Kincer said she has not received all the rate increases for health insurance at this time, but they will be in the next draft of the budget when it is ready for the second reading.
Mayor Kincer also issued a Certificate of Commendation for Sgt. Jim Stephens of the Jenkins Police Department for his actions in an emergency at the Jenkins Methodist Church when a congregation member was stricken during services. Kincer said Stephens’s response was overwhelming and called it a job well done.
In other business, the council conducted the second reading of a new franchise agreement for cable service to the city. Kentucky Regional Cable Commission Attorney Linda Ain told the council that she will give bid forms to City Clerk Sherry Puckett so the city can advertise for bids, and the council can anticipate opening bids to supply cable service to the city in June.
Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who works with the city on water and sewer matters, gave the council good news concerning funding. Nesbitt told the council that Kentucky Infrastructure Authority has approved a $2.4 million loan at the rate of 1.5 percent interest for the city to complete Phase IV of the city’s Waterline Replacement Project. Nesbitt said the loan has a forgiveness clause of 50 percent so the city will only need to repay $1.2 million for the 20-year loan. He said that was about as good a deal as the city could ever hope to get and added that Abandoned Mine Lands has agreed to fund a good deal of improvements in the city’s water facilities to make it possible for the city to provide a steady supply of water to county customers as part of the Payne Gap Water Project.
AML has funded the entire Payne Gap Water Project and the City of Jenkins agreed to administer it to expedite the badly needed extension of water lines from Jenkins to Mayking. As part of the arrangement, Jenkins will supply water to many of the county customers along the route. The water will be sold in bulk thorough a master meter located just below a tank at the Junction of US 23 and US 119 at Payne Gap. The county will own the lines and will be responsible for billing individual customers and maintaining the lines. Nesbitt said AML has authorized about $1 million for a new pump station and work to improve old lines running from the city water plant to the Payne Gap Tank. AML will also pay 40 percent of the cost to upgrade filters at the city water plant and Nesbitt said funds left over from Phase III of the Waterline Replacement Project will cover the city’s portion of the filter upgrade, so about $1.5 million in upgrades will be done at no cost to the city.
The city produced 15,776,000 gallons of treated water in may and sold 5,035,000. That amount included 885,000 gallons sold to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District. The city had a 60 percent water loss with 36 percent of that unaccounted for. Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders told the council that represented a 20 percent improvement in unaccounted for loss but did not impact the overall water loss figure.
City Manager DePriest told the council that the swimming pool is ahead of schedule for the Memorial Day opening and contractor Randy Blair of Whitesburg said the changing rooms construction is on schedule as well.
In other business:
• The council authorized declaring a 1984 Mack Rescue Truck owned by the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department as surplus property.
• The council conducted the first reading of the 2013-2014 budget for $1,994,669. Modifications can be made until the second reading is conducted at the next council meeting.
• Two new properties were approved to go to the next stage of condemnation in the Blighted and Deteriorated Property list. The properties are: the Mike and Margaret Johnson estate at B&O Hill and a house on Straight Row at Dunham last known to be owned by Shirley Wright.
• Mayor Pro-Tem Robert Schubert praised City Finance Officer Robin Kincer for her work on the budget and her overall job performance. Schubert said Kincer gets a lot of heat sometimes but she should be congratulated for the excellent job she does.