It will be a busy summer for members of the Jenkins City Council as Mayor G.C. Kincer announced several measures he said would help the city to move forward and reported on progress and financing for the new Jenkins City Hall in his remarks at the council’s June meeting.
Kincer announced the formation of two committees near the end of the meeting. He asked council members Terry Braddock and Rick Damron to join City Attorney Randall Tackett on a committee to draft an ordinance to follow up on the city’s May vote to allow for alcohol sales in restaurants. Kincer said the ordinance will reflect the will of the people as expressed in a free election and told the council the committee will use a similar ordinance borrowed from the City of Whitesburg. He said the committee will examine the ordinance and use what is applicable and adapt other measures specifically for Jenkins.
Kincer said the committee will deliver the draft ordinance to the entire council for its examination and it will be discussed and submitted for approval at a public meeting. Kincer also asked council members Robert Adams and Rebecca Terrill Amburgey to join Tackett on a second committee to look at implementing an occupational tax to add revenue for the city. Kincer said he envisions the occupational tax as a measure to add revenue without increasing the tax burden on most citizens, and said it will be necessary in order to add badly needed revenues to the city’s coffers.
Kincer told the council that he has looked at occupational taxes in surrounding cities and said that most of them have one. He said he understands the feelings that accompany any tax measures, but added that he believes everyone will be pleasantly surprised with the result. Kincer said the city needs to escape the status quo and move forward, but additional revenue will be necessary in order to do so.
“We can stay where we are forever,” said Kincer. “If you just sit and don’t grow you are just sitting on a rotten limb. I want to ensure our future. We need to look at ways to increase revenue without burdening our citizens. We’re not raising taxes, but promoting our city.”
Kincer also told the council he wanted to speak publicly about the new city hall and how the building was financed and how ongoing work has been paid for. The council voted to approve a General Obligation Ordinance in February, which allowed the city to enter into a bond/lease arrangement with the Kentucky League of Cities to finance the $127,000 cost of the building where the new city hall is located. The building formerly belonged to James F. ‘Chum’ Tackett and housed the Jenkins Independent Schools Central Offi ces and Board of Education.
Kincer told the council that former Mayor Robert ‘Pud’ Schubert had started a fund from coal severance tax revenue for Jenkins’s participation in a planned Welcome Center to be located on US 23 near the Virginia state line. He said that when the project fell through, Schubert left $180,000 in the account. Kincer said when he was looking for funding to renovate the office space in the building, City Manager Todd DePriest told him about the money. Kincer said that through the efforts of building contractor Randy Blair of Blair Real Estate and the participation of city employees in the renovation work, the city managed to hold costs down to an acceptable level.
Blair took the floor and told the council that he had worked with Kincer to keep costs down at every turn. He said Kincer and DePriest had scoured the area for the best prices on material and that city workers had performed well above the call of duty in working on the building. He said that a renovation job will usually average about $40 per square foot, but the City Hall job had averaged about $12 per square foot on the 6,000-square-foot space. He said his costs would come in at around the $50,000 to $60,000 range. Blair said that as a basis of comparison, he had just had a bid of $35,000 accepted on a job in Whitesburg on an 800-square-foot project. Both Blair and Kincer praised the city employees for their hard work and diligence on the renovation.
Kincer told the council that at present the city has spent $39,000 on material and $17,000 on labor and the renovation is nearly complete. He added that Blair’s cooperation and efforts to keep costs down is the result of their long friendship, which Blair jokingly said had been pushed to the limit during the work.
Kincer told the council he hopes to replace the money used for the renovation in the building fund when coal severance tax receipts come in and said he has already spoken to two physicians who wish to put offices in the current city hall on Lakeside Drive within the next year. Kincer also thanked Jenkins resident Steve Addington for his help in persuading LKLP to donate a used van to the city. Kincer said the van came at no cost and has over 200,000 miles on the odometer.
Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward attended the meeting to report that Kentucky Abandoned Mine Lands has appropriated an additional $800,000 to be added to $600,000 in coal severance receipts the Letcher County Fiscal earmarked to get the Payne Gap Water Project started. Ward said he and Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering had visited with AML last week and the agency had been impressed that the county has made the initial appropriation for the start-up. The $800,000 brings the county’s AML appropriations for the year to $4.8 million.
Ward said the entire project has been designated as AML fundable, but the initial funding package for Phase I of $3 million will not come through until July 2012. Ward estimated that after bidding and other start-up work, the $1.4 million on hand should take the water lines past Fishpond Lake, possibly as far as Webb Branch, before the Phase I funds come through. Ward praised the city council for its willingness to administer the project, which will be turned over to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District upon completion and will be paid for entirely by AML funds except for the county’s $600,000.