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Cop complaints

Jenkins mayor says fraudulent writings may bring libel suits


The City of Jenkins has a new policy on dealing with public complaints about city police officers.

Mayor Charles Dixon told the Jenkins City Council at its August meeting Monday night that if a citizen wants to complain about a police officer’s actions, he or she must submit the complaint in writing.

Dixon said the written complaint will then be presented to a review committee which will compare the charges contained in the complaint to the video recording of the arrest or traffic stop that resulted in the complaint. (Dixon said that all city cruisers are equipped with video cameras, and that all arrests and traffic stops will be recorded.)

Dixon said the city attorney will be part of the review committee, and that if the complaint turns out to be fraudulent the person who wrote the complaint can be sued for libel.

The policy change is the result of a controversy that began July 2 when Jenkins City Councilman Terry Braddock accused city police officers of harassment during an incident Braddock said he witnessed. Braddock said charges of harassment by the police department had become “an everyday thing.”

Dixon also on Monday announced the resignations of patrolman Brian Damron and police chief Mike Dingus, who left the city’ police force to work for the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department.

Dixon told the council that Sergeant Jim Stevens has been promoted to the position of chief. Officer Adam Swindall will take over the sergeant’s position left vacant by Stevens.

In moving to the sheriff’s department, Damron and Dingus are filling two new deputy sheriff positions funded by a $60,000 allotment agreed to by the Letcher Fiscal Court last month.

The fiscal court voted to use road and bridge money to pay for the two salaries after agreeing that more deputies are needed to fight the county’s growing drug problem.

In other business Monday, the council learned that a “false positive” from a water test was the cause of a “PCB” scare in a water source serving much of the Joe’s Branch community.

City Engineer Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering said a project to build new water lines in Joe’s Branch was stopped and then restarted by the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) after the false positive in a test for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a toxic chemical that contains dioxin.

Nesbitt said the DOW had given the all clear and later reported that the test was faulty.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who represents Jenkins on the Letcher Fiscal Court, asked if a check valve could be installed to prevent contamination of the entire system in case of future problems in Joe’s Branch. Nesbitt said he could make the change, which would cost approximately $6,000.

“How much will it cost to contaminate the system and give 100 people cancer?” asked Fleming. “I would rather pay for this than contaminate the entire system.”

Fleming said the Kentucky Environmental Protection Agency had called Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward’s office on August 8 and told them to tell the Joe’s Branch residents not to drink the water or to bathe in it. Fleming said EPA called back and said the water was OK on Friday.

Council member Rick Damron, who is an electrical engineer, said check valves should be in every branch line as a standard procedure to prevent contaminated water from infiltrating the system in case of line breaks.

A public hearing held to allow members of the public to comment on a cable television rate hike helped stretch Monday’s meeting to three hours.

Kentucky Regional Cable Commission attorney Linda Ain told the council the city has the right to regulate basic cable rates up through the first 19 channels. Ain said the city is supposed to receive forms from the cable provider annually concerning cable rates but the practice hasn’t been followed since 1999. Inter Mountain Cable, the current cable provider, has not filed the forms since it took over the system last year.

Ain said the rate-regulating process was potentially costly for the city, and that cable companies can challenge it if they have effective competition of 15 percent, including satellite television providers. She said telephone companies are also beginning to offer television programming through “superfast” fiber optic lines in competition with cable providers.

Inter Mountain was represented by marketing director Keith Wiley and chief financial officer James Campbell. Both said the cable company intends to address any problems customers may have and Campbell added that the company has invested more than $1 million in the Jenkins system, which also includes part of Wise County, Va. He also told the council that cost increases from cable channels like ESPN and others had made it necessary to raise the rates.

“I feel like we’ve made vast improvements,” said Campbell. “We raised our rates to match cost increases from our channels and we have to pass the rate hikes on. We’re here to stay and we want to be good corporate citizens. Occasionally we have to raise rates and that’s what we did. It’s not pleasant.”

Jenkins resident Bob Bartram said his monthly rate had gone up more than $5 a month with no corresponding increase in service. Campbell said the rate increase was $5.30 per month effective Sept. 1. He said Inter Mountain now offers a 750 MHZ cable system with bundled packages featuring cable modems, cable television, and local and long distance telephone service.

Jenkins resident Jim Polly, who serves on the Jenkins Planning Commission and the Old Jenkins High School Committee, said he had recently gotten the bundled system and is very satisfied with it.

Magistrate Fleming said he feels there are hidden charges when cable boxes are upgraded. Fleming said he recently replaced his old cable boxes and his bill went up by $20. Campbell said the technology had changed to the point that the old boxes had to be switched out as they are replaced and a cable box costs approximately $300. He said for a while the company was short of cable boxes and there were substantial waits for service but now it has a surplus.

Campbell also said Inter Mountain plans to run a promotion with a half-price rate for the transition. Council member Linda Baldwin complained of what she called “garbage channels” on the higher ranges. Baldwin said the reception was very poor for local channels and she didn’t like it when the cable company changed channel numbers without notifying customers.

“I don’t know if we need five home repair channels,” said Baldwin. “It’s garbage TV. If you were putting out quality TV, but this is the worst service I’ve had since TV companies came here. Channels six and eight are constantly changed. We’re paying for good TV but we’re getting garbage.”

Dixon announced Monday night that the city has received a $600,000 grant from the state to continue work on a proposed welcome center on U.S. 23 and an additional $15,000 to extend sidewalks from the Jenkins football field to the crossing area at Jenkins High School.

The council also:

  • Received a report from Dennis Elrod of Adkins Elrod
    Associates that the water line connection with Mountain Water System of Pike
    County will be complete by the end of August.

  • Received a Water Report from Water Superintendent Bo
    Hopkins that leaks accounted for the loss of 4,528,800 gallons of treated water.
    Hopkins said 22 leaks were found and repaired in July, some in lines that date
    back to 1908.

  • Received a report from Dave Chaltes concerning a Civil
    War reenactment skirmish scheduled for Sunday, August 26, at the Little Shepherd
    Amphitheater during the Jenkins Homecoming Days Festival.

  • Announced a city-wide cleanup for August 18. Those who
    wish to have heavy items picked up by city workers should call 832-2635.

  • Voted to allow the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department to
    rent paddle boats on Jenkins Lake during the Jenkins Homecoming Days Festival.

  • Voted to begin the process of raising the procurement
    code (the amount the city can spend without placing an item for bid) from $7,500
    to $20,000 to match state codes and a proposed change by the Letcher County
    Fiscal Court.

  • Learned that Jenkins Police officers answered 76
    complaints in July, issued 41 citations, and made 24 arrests. Chief Stevens said
    activity was down somewhat. Mayor Dixon also issued letters of commendation to
    Sgt. Adam Swindall and Officer Anthony Maggard for their handling of several
    situations which Dixon said could have gotten out of hand otherwise.

  • Learned that the city might be eligible for an
    EPA/Kentucky DOW Grant for “impaired water” from massive leaks from old sewer
    lines. Utilities Board member Tracy Goff told the council that Elkhorn City had
    received a similar grant for $600,000 to do water monitoring and sampling in its
    watershed.

  • Received a report from council member Chuck Anderson on
    the Jenkins Homecoming Days Festival. Anderson said the festival is really
    taking shape and train rides in the park will be free to all during the
    festival. Anderson also said that this year there will be real crafters at the
    festival.

  • Discussed an ongoing problem with four-wheelers in
    Burdine. Chief Stevens said he would increase patrols in the area. Stevens said
    Jenkins officers can pursue four-wheelers but they use common sense and don’t
    risk their own lives or the lives of others by trying to follow off-road
    vehicles with cruisers. Stevens said if violators are under age their parents
    can be cited and vehicles can be confiscated and towed, but he prefers a less
    confrontational approach if possible.





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