Whitesburg KY

Clinic’s sudden closing surprises Jenkins officials

Jenkins city officials say they were given no advance notice that a Pikeville hospital was closing its clinic at Jenkins and moving its only doctor to an office in the Whitesburg Walmart.

The clinic being operated in Jenkins by Pikeville Medical Center was staffed by a handful of personnel, including Dr. Heath Cook, a Letcher County native. While one member of the Jenkins City Council said the medical center moved Cook and the clinic’s operations to Whitesburg in the “dead of the night,” Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer said he still has high hopes for a continuing relationship between the city and the Pikeville hospital.

“Hopefully they will put something here to benefit the community,” Kincer said. “I hope they will continue to use the space they contracted for and I hope they will continue to be a part of the city. They are a medical service extraordinaire.”

The subject of the vacated clinic was brought up Monday night during the March meeting of the Jenkins City Council. Council members and citizens alike said they were baffled by Dr. Cook’s sudden disappearance from the town. Kincer said the city has not received any notice of cancellation of the lease agreement for the medical office, located in a city owned building, and that rent for March has been paid. Kincer said he remains hopeful that Pikeville Medical Center will reach out to Jenkins.

Pikeville Medical officials could not be reached for comment concerning the city’s claims despite repeated attempts on Tuesday.

Kincer’s comments came during a discussion about efforts to obtain an ambulance service for the city. Kincer said an ambulance service has been high on his list since he decided to run for mayor and that it is now on the front burner.

Kincer told the council he is looking for grants that will enable the city to own and operate its own ambulance service. He paid high praise to the Neon Ambulance Service, which now serves Jenkins, but said it is in the best interest of the city to have an ambulance service dedicated solely to the needs of Jenkins residents.

Kincer, who once worked in the medical field, told the council the window for obtaining a Certificate of Need will close in June and won’t be available again until December. He said he does not believe it would be wise for the city to use the certificate of need to bring in a contractor who could take the certificate with it if it decides to leave.

“We can get one on a temporary basis but we will have to sub (contract) it out and we will have to turn our certificate over to the sub,” said Kincer. “I think it’s best to take ownership and be our own masters. If we get one, we won’t let it go.”

In other business, attorney Linda Ain addressed the council about a clause in the city’s franchise agreement with Intermountain Cable that requires the company to maintain a service center in the city. Mayor Kincer told Ain, who represents the city in cable franchise matters, the matter was resolved after he spoke with James Campbell, an Intermountain official. Kincer, who has spent much of his professional life in the radio business, said he knows Campbell well and as soon as he spoke with him about the matter, Campbell saw to it that it was resolved to the city’s satisfaction.

Ain also said the city is interested in obtaining a second public access channel. She said the franchise agreement allows for a second channel if there is sufficient programming. Campbell told the council the company’s wavelength is now full, but that Intermountain is in the process of digitizing its service, with extra space becoming available in June or July. He said there will be no problem in making some of that space available to the city.

Kincer said the city agreed last year to move the Letcher County Fiscal Court’s Government Channel 98 to the initial public access channel for Jenkins when Channel 98 began carrying City Council meetings and meetings of the Jenkins Board of Education as well as other events such as the Jenkins Homecoming Festival. He said he is very happy with the coverage provided by Channel 98, but that he would like to have access to a dedicated channel to provide information strictly suited to the residents of Jenkins, including announcements about water service and other city-related business. He added that he is interested in working with the Jenkins Independent School System to make it available for its use as well.

Kincer also told the council that City Manager Todd DePriest has already moved his office to the new City Hall, located in the former Beth-Elkhorn Coal Co. office annex that was most recently occupied by the Jenkins Board of Education. He said DePriest is redecorating the office himself with office furniture he purchased for a bargain in Bluefield, W.Va. Kincer said the other city offices will move there as soon as redecorating is complete. Kincer said that in addition to every city office having more room to operate, the city’s access to the Internet will be greatly enhanced with fiber optic connections that carry as much as 18 T1 lines. Kincer said the lines will allow the city to have real-time streaming broadcasts on the Internet as well as broadcasting on the city’s public access channel.

Kincer also announced a possible alternate water supply for the city. The old Jenkins Water Works on Goodwater Hill supplied the city’s water needs for years before the city began using Elkhorn Lake for its water supply. Kincer said the old dam and much of the original site is still intact, adding that the site was once famous for the quality and taste of its water that came from limestone springs in Pine Mountain. The old water system also supplied water to the old Kiwanis Swimming Pool that provided summer swimming to Jenkins for years. The pool was located at the current site of Goodwater Apartments and was also well known for its cold temperature from the spring water that fed it.

Kincer said that Nesbitt Engineering will run all required tests to determine if the source can supply the city’s needs (500 gallons per minute for 12 hours a day) or if a tank will need to be built to make sure the water supply will be adequate. The alternate supply is necessary if the city is to proceed with its plan to drain Elkhorn Lake to dredge it and get rid of the water lilies that cause problems with water quality when they decompose. Kincer said that once the alternate supply is connected, the city will continue to use it to lower treatment costs and to ensure a continued supply of water even in the driest months. Kincer said he and several others had sampled the water and “none of us got sick.”

City Manager DePriest reported water losses of around 70 percent for February. DePriest said the city pumped 13,200,000 gallons of treated water in February but only sold 4,003,000 gallons. He attributed a loss of 1,893,600 gallons to known leaks. DePriest reminded the council that while Phase I of the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project is well underway, with about 60 percent complete, the city’s water is still delivered using the old system, which is prone to massive leaking and still has lines that run nowhere and nobody even knows they exist, until they are uncovered for one reason or another. DePriest said that when Phase I is complete, the city will kill the old lines and all city water to the approximately 250 residences connected to lines installed in Phase I will run through the new system. He said at that point, the city will begin to see a decrease in water losses.

DePriest told the council that renovations to the Burdine Sewer Plant are almost complete and that once electricians hook up the newly installed gray water system, untreated “gray” water coming from within the sewer plant can be used for some purposes like washing down drying beds, saving several hundred thousand gallons of treated water each month.

DePriest also reported that the city’s road department is cleaning out ditches, starting with the larger ones. He asked the council for a resolution to prevent homeowners from using non-approved culverts for ditches and driveways. DePriest said city workers have found culverts made of water heaters welded together, and even five- gallon buckets with the bottoms removed and taped together. DePriest said these make-do solutions usually collapse soon and cause water to run into the city streets. He asked the council to craft an ordinance to require the city’s approval of culverts used in ditches that are adjacent to city streets.

DePriest also reported that Blue Bag recycling dropped in February and the added amount of trash taken to the landfill cost the city an extra $500. The city took 113 tons of garbage to the landfill at a cost of $4,536 in February. DePriest said that recycling is the best way to keep sanitation fees down.

DePriest also delivered the Police Report as well as the Fire Department Report. Jenkins Police Officers responded to 157 complaints, of which six were for vehicle collisions, and made 19 arrests. Six arrests were drug related. Officers also issued 24 citations. Officer Josh Richardson is undergo- his police training and grants for a four-wheel drive police vehicle as well as digital radios, body armor, and a Kentucky League of Cities Safety Grant are underway. The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department made 15 runs in February, attending to four fires, one wreck, five EMS runs, one for gas smell, and one for public service. Three firefighters completed Rescue and Survival School, which is a prerequisite for firefighter certification.

Matt Curtis of Nesbitt Engineering told the council that work on Phase I of the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project has been hampered by harsh weather and lots of unexpected findings during excavation. He asked the council to grant K Carrington of London an additional 90 days to complete the project. Curtis said the extra time will not cost the city anything and the council approved the request unanimously.

In other city business:

• The council voted to approve an ordinance regulating costs to use the city sign at Jenkins City Park for non-city purposes. The minimum charge of $20 will cover up to 20 letters with an additional charge of $.50 per letter. Messages lasting more than one day will receive a 50 percent discount for each additional day and a minimum of two days is required.

• Kincer announced that a number of the city’s planters that extend into parking spaces along Main Street will be removed. Kincer said the planters have caused problems with parking and have done considerable damage to vehicles. He said the removal comes at the request of many citizens and is the will of the people.

• Kincer also announced that the sidewalk on Lakeside will be extended to just past the last house running toward Jenkins Middle High School. He said the sidewalk will not run past property he owns at the old bakery store.

• Jim Polly of the Planning Committee reported on progress being made on the 2012 Jenkins Centennial Celebration and gave council members a list of events and projects the committee is considering. He asked council members to look at the list and to report back on their desires for the celebration. Among the projects were Volume Two of the History of Jenkins, decorative banners commemorating the centennial, and an event presenting several hundred photographs of the early days of Jenkins provided by the Smithsonian Institution. These photos have never been seen by the public and the Smithsonian intern who discovered them will conduct a presentation and show the photos along with photographs from the personal collection of the Consol photographer who recorded much of the early history of Jenkins. A number of other suggestions were also presented.

• Council members Rick Damron and Chuck Anderson both expressed frustration with the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, which manufactured and sold the city clock on Main Street, which often malfunctions. Damron said the clock was presented to the city as the best clock going when it was sold by Verdin, which has been in business since 1842. He and Anderson agreed that it has never kept the correct time, and Anderson said as temperatures drop, the clock slows. He added that he had been in another city that had three Verdin clocks and none kept the correct time or had the same time.

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