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City of Jenkins may look at alcohol sales

The City of Jenkins may be the next eastern Kentucky community to explore a wet/dry option vote in order to improve its economy.

At the September meeting of the Jenkins City Council, council member Terry Braddock made a motion for the city to adopt a “liquor by the drink” option, which would allow restaurants seating over 100 people to sell alcoholic beverages. Braddock quoted Kentucky Revised Statute 242.185, which he said allows a city council in a fourth-class city (Jenkins is a fourth-class city) to vote in liquor by the drink without a referendum vote.

Although Braddock’s motion died for lack for a second, several other council members said they felt he was on the right track and authorized City Attorney Randall Tackett to take the matter under study to determine what provisions of the statute apply to the city and to determine how to proceed if the council should decide to pursue the matter further.

Council member Rebecca Terrill told Braddock that while she agrees that allowing the legal sale of alcohol in Jenkins would boost the city’s financial picture, she believes that any attempts to pass wet/dry legislation should be preceded by a local option vote.

“You have the right idea as to what the city needs,” said Terrill. “But I think we should go through the citizens.”

Braddock said the council in effect is “the people” because they were elected to do the people’s business. He said that with the volume of traffic that comes through the US- 23/US-119 junction, the city could see rapid economic development if the possibility of alcohol sales could lure major hotel and restaurant chains to locate at the junction.

Council member Rick Damron told Braddock that he agrees with him in principal, but said the law needs to be carefully examined. He said passing such an ordinance quickly could lock the city into one option when other options may better serve the city’s interests.

The council took no further action after Braddock’s motion failed, but will revisit the issue at its October meeting after City Attorney Tackett has a chance to study it further.

In other business, a proposal by Braddock to re-zone the Gateway Industrial Park for retail development died as well. Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest read an e-mail from State Grants Representative David Allen of the Department of Local Government which described a restrictive covenant covering the park. The covenant states that the property shall be used only for manufacturing, processing, and assembling, worker training and education, and any use that results in the addition of a value to a product including data processing, telecommunications, and distribution. Any other use must be approved by the Secretary for the Cabinet for Economic Development.

DePriest told the council that in the event he received a proposal from a retail establishment, he would feel obligated to present it to the secretary but said he doubted it would be approved.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who represents Jenkins on the Letcher Fiscal Court, asked DePriest if he would consider requesting that a small portion of the park be set aside for development for purposes other than industrial. DePriest said he would make the request. He said the board, which is composed of representatives from Letcher County, Pike County, Knott County and Floyd County, would have to approve the request before it is submitted to the Secretary for Economic Development.

Fleming also addressed the council on a personal matter. His daughter Cindy Gentry was forced from her home in Burdine almost six months ago because of a mistake made during the reconstruction of a sewer line in the neighborhood. After a liner was placed in the pipe, contractors did not reconnect her line to the main sewer line and for nearly two years, raw sewage backed up in the line and ran out under her house, eventually rendering it unlivable. The home has since been condemned by the Letcher County Health Department, leaving Fleming’s daughter and his two granddaughters homeless.

Fleming told the council that Mrs. Gentry and her children have stayed with him and other relatives, but that they need to have this matter settled so they can live together as a family again, especially since school is now in session. Fleming said that he is not interested in creating an adversarial relationship with the city but that ultimately, the city is the responsible party. He said the contractor will not return his phone calls and that although Nesbitt Engineering has been willing to cooperate, neither the city’s insurance company nor the contractor has been willing to enter into a three-way agreement to resolve the matter.

Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering told the council that all that will matter to Fleming and his daughter are results and that while he has attempted to resolve the matter with the contractor and has spent entire days exchanging emails with them, so far, nothing has materialized. He said he had tried but couldn’t produce the desired result. Fleming said he hopes to avoid legal action, but if it is necessary he will recommend that his daughter pursue relief in court.

“I guarantee that if they have to get a lawyer, it will cost a lot more,” said Fleming

Mayor Charles Dixon said he has spoken with the city’s insurance carrier who told him the mistake is the responsibility of the contractor. Fleming asked Dixon how much longer his daughter should be expected to go without a home and council member Carol Anne Litts told the council that she believes the situation has gone on long enough and said the city must take action.

“I don’t think we would put up with this if it was one of us,” said Litts.

City Attorney Tackett said that Fleming has a legitimate claim and asked him to write a short letter to the city, which the city can then present to its insurance company. He added that the city has insurance for such situations.

Rick Damron said the solution proposed by Tackett is not sufficient and suggested that the city provide rental housing until the matter is settled. Carol Anne Litts agreed and said the council has talked about the matter long enough.

“Nothing has been done,” said Litts. “That’s ludicrous.”

Damron made a motion for the city to provide rental housing for Mrs. Gentry and her family until the matter can be settled and add the costs to the settlement. The council voted unanimously to approve the motion.

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