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Crime out of hand, official warns

A rash of break-ins has plagued the Burdine community in Jenkins and a Letcher County Fiscal Court official was almost the latest victim. Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who represents Jenkins on the court, told the Jenkins City Council at its May meeting that he heard someone trying to get into his home Sunday evening. Fleming said he feared for the safety of his wife and grandchildren and called 911. He said by the time he removed a child safety lock from a shotgun, the would-be burglars had fled. He went out into his backyard and fired a shot in their direction, but they had fled toward a waiting car, which Fleming said left without them. However by the time police officers arrived, they were gone.

Fleming said after calling 911, he called a Letcher County deputy sheriff who called the Jenkins Police Department. He said he took this action because he is aware that the response to 911 calls is so slow it may have taken as much as 45 minute. Fleming told the council there have been three recent break-ins in Burdine and said he fears for the safety of his neighbors, especially older people. He said he believes the burglaries are drug related and he is afraid the thieves will target people they believe have pills in their homes.

Several council members suggested expanding the police presence in Burdine and having random patrols, but Fleming said the robbers obviously use lookouts and plan their robberies well because they never strike when patrols are around. He suggested the robbers also use police scanners to help them to determine the location of police patrols and to identify people who turn them in so they can target them for retaliation.

“Some people are afraid to call because of the scanners,” said Fleming. “It’s frustrating. Some of these people will shoot them (the robbers).”

Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer told Fleming that a solution for the scanner situation is on the way, as the city is in the process of outfitting the police force with digital radios, but he added that having a dispatcher working 24/7 would be a better solution. Kincer said that soon, all the police radios and other emergency communications will be on digital bands that are not susceptible to scanners. Fleming said the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department recently had to let a dispatcher go and no longer has round-theclock dispatching service either. He added that he believes recent legislative action to relieve the prison burden will only exacerbate the situation.

“The legislature changed the law too,” said Fleming. “The jails are full so they are going to turn the prisoners out, and it will get worse. If we could kill two or three, maybe they would wise up.”

In his report, Mayor Kincer thanked the council, city employees, and citizens of Jenkins for their kindness and patience during a recent period in which both his mother-inlaw and sister-in-law died. Kincer also said the city is still working on a skate park, and praised Ferus Inc. of Canada for its recent grand-opening celebration.

Kincer said Gateway Industrial Park is beginning to attract more businesses and said City Hall receives calls inquiring about the park on a regular basis. He said the City also receive inquires about motels and restaurants and that Johnson Industries is planning to develop a shopping center on the US 23 by-pass. One woman in the meeting audience alluded to the upcoming wet/ dry vote by saying that Jenkins will need to vote wet in order to increase its revenue and possibilities for the future.

Kincer also reported that the new city offices in the old Beth-Elkhorn Annex are almost complete and said TECO is renovating the old Elkhorn Country Club to locate its corporate offices there. Kincer praised TECO for its corporate citizenship and said he is very pleased to have it back in town. He also announced that a “Mayor’s ATV Ride” will be held in the near future and that Jenkins will be an ATV-friendly town. He added that state and local laws governing ATVs will be enforced, but said he wants ATV riders to feel welcome in Jenkins.

In other business, City Finance Officer Robin Kincer conducted the first reading of a $2,045,588 balanced budget. Both Kincer and the mayor told the council the budget is very tight and has very little wiggle room. Robin Kincer said she has factored in a raise in insurance costs of up to 12 percent but other than that, there is very little possibility of adding anything else. Mayor Kincer told the council he has recommended a three percent pay raise for city workers and said they deserve much more, but there is no more money.

Mayor Kincer said that the city is financially sound and he is glad it doesn’t find itself in the same situation of deficit spending some larger and other small cities are in. Kincer pointed to Lexington as an example and added that thanks to the fiscal responsibility of both his recent predecessors, Robert ‘Pud’ Schubert and Charles Dixon, the city does have an emergency fund that will allow it to operate in a crisis. He said the city is poised to move forward in several directions that should increase its revenue but added he does not want to raise taxes.

“We have some revenue ideas,” said Kincer. “We’re getting inquiries about new businesses coming into the city, restaurants and a hotel. We want to position ourselves for the future but we have to survive while we are getting there.”

Council member Carol Anne Litts asked Robin Kincer if the city employees were satisfied with their insurance and both Kincer and City Clerk Sherry Puckett said there were no complaints. Robin Kincer said that once employees had figured out how the new system worked, they liked it and added that the ‘Health Savings Plan” had saved the city money and had provided very good insurance for the employees. She said that even though the city had funded $1,900 of the $2,000 (95 percent) deductable for the employees, the plan has still resulted in considerable savings for the city.

Robin Kincer also said that the Sanitation Department portion of the budget does not reflect an anticipated landfill tipping fee increase of $5.76 per ton that was reported by City Administrator Todd DePriest during his Supervisors’ Report. She said if that increase is implemented, it will add $55,000 to the Sanitation Budget and the overall budget will have to be adjusted to accommodate it.

In his report, DePriest told the council the increase in the tipping fee is the same one the fiscal court recently addressed and said the city will have to look at its rates to keep the Sanitation Department from running a deficit. He said the only possible way to prevent some sort of rate hike is if the citizens of Jenkins would increase the rate of “blue bag” recycling. DePriest said the number of bags of recyclables for April was 725 bags.

DePriest also reported that the water plant pumped 13,672,000 gallons of treated water and sold 3,622,000 gallons. He said identified leaks accounted for a loss of 2,224,000 gallons for a 41 percent unaccounted loss of treated water. He added that the hoist system is now in place at the Burdine Wastewater Treatment Plant and the gray water system for washing down beds is also in place and the drying beds are in operation as well.

DePriest told the council that city workers are cleaning ditches and drains, but frequent rainstorms are filling them back up again almost as soon as they are cleaned. He added that Verdin Company, which sold a clock to the city that has malfunctioned, has agreed to install new motors and R.F. filters and to replace a micros witch on the clock. A tire amnesty will be held June 9 and 10.

DePriest also reported that the Jenkins Police Department responded to 137 complaints in April, handled seven vehicle collisions, and made 16 arrests. Officers issued 14 warnings, 24 citations, and made 18 motorists assists. All police officers have completed firearms qualifications and Offi cers Josh Richardson and Daniel Caudill are in field training. Recruit Allen Bornes is scheduled for the Kentucky Police Academy and a body armor grant is still in progress. The city has been awarded a Safety Grant through the Kentucky League of Cities for safety equipment for police and other city workers.

The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department made 18 runs in April, two for brush fires, three for smoke, one for traffic, one wreck, three EMS, one weather related, and one public service. It was also called out for four false calls and one alarm malfunction. The new fire truck is now in service and the JVFD has received a grant for exercise equipment from the state.

The citywide cleanup will be held throughout May in Jenkins. Pick-up schedule for neighborhoods is:

• May 2-6, Paul Baker’s Barber and Beauty Shop, Number Five, Smokey Row, Slate Hill, Premier Subdivision. Overlook Terrace, Number Six, all of Dunham through Upper Dunham Road, and Wyatt’s Hollow.

• May 9-13, Elkhorn Avenue, Williams Street and Circle, Lakeside, Wheaton Hollow, Hidden Drive, Dairy Hollow, Main Street, Woodland Trail, Number Four Hill, High Street, Payne Street, Cove Avenue, Cavalier Drive down to Sam DePriest’s house, and Raven Rock Country Club.

• May 16-20, Brick Yard Hill, Wrights Hollow and Circle, B&O Hill, Forest Circle, Little Camden, Camden, Cane Branch, Joe’s Branch, Number Three Hollow, East Jenkins Hill, Cora Whitaker Drive down to Whitaker’s Music Store.

• May 23-27, Railroad Hill, Rocky Hollow, Number Two Bottom, Adams Street, Brook Lane, Mountain Breeze, Number One Bottom, Number One Hill, Tin Can Hollow, Store Hill and the remainder of Burdine to the “Welcome to Jenkins” sign.

In other business:

• The council voted unanimously to advertise for bids for an architect for the World War II Monument.

• Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who works with the city on water and sewer projects, reported that Phase I of the Jenkins Water Lines Replacement Project should be complete in 60 to 90 days. He said he will speak to the contractor, K. Carrender of London, to ensure that it cleans up yards and roads impacted by the construction, but said it will probably do repaving all at once after Phase I is complete.

• Nesbitt also told the council that a memorandum of agreement has been signed with Abandoned Mine Lands for the Payne Gap Water Project the city will administer. When the lines are installed, the City of Jenkins will turn them over to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District and sell the district water from a master meter located near the tank on the ridge on US 119 near Gateway Industrial Park. Whitesburg businessman Don Childers donated the land for the tank site. The entire project is funded by AML at no cost to the city. The fiscal court appropriated $600,000 in coal severance funds for the project as start-up money until the AML funding comes through. where to purchase drugs,” said Damron. “We made the decision not to purchase at a ballgame. We just didn’t feel like that was the appropriate place to do it. It opened our eyes to the seriousness of what we were dealing with.”

Authorities say Hutton threw a bottle containing 25 pills across the road from his home while police were executing a search warrant there on April 29. A blue pill bottle with no label was found later by Kentucky State Police Trooper Chuck Bledsoe and Neon Police Officer Tim Miller. Damron said the bottle contained the same brand of 15-milligram oxycodone tablets involved in the investigation.

Wright was arrested twice last week. On April 26, he was charged by Damron with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, second-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and tampering with physical evidence.

Damron wrote in a citation referring to the first arrest of Wright that he was patrolling in Neon last Tuesday evening when he saw Wright’s 2003 silver Toyota Tacoma “sitting roadside” and later observed as Wright hid something in the console.

Damron wrote in the citation that he found a controlled substance in a “cellophane baggie” and that Wright told him he had hidden two oxycodone tablets in the lower portion of the console. Damron said he found several types of controlled substances for which Wright did not have valid prescriptions. Damron wrote in the citation that he found a camoufl age pouch containing a snorting tube in Wright’s possession, that a scraping device was found in Wright’s rear pocket and a $2 bill with a powder-like substance inside was found in Wright’s front pocket. Damron also wrote that a powder-like residue was visible in both of Wright’s nostrils.

Wright was released from jail on the first charge on April 27 after posting a $5,000 surety bond with the conditions of lawful behavior, no driving, and that he obtain an alcohol/drug abuse assessment evaluation.

A preliminary hearing for Wright and Hutton is set for 1 p.m. on May 5 in Letcher District Court. Bond was set at $50,000 cash for each.

Hutton, who once scored 55 points while playing basketball for Fleming-Neon High School in the late 1960s, has been a referee in seven of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Sweet 16 boys’ championship games at Rupp Arena in Lexington, a number believed to be one short of the record eight title games called by referee Burney Jenkins of Georgetown. His most recent appearance at the boys’ Sweet 16 was in 2010.

Hutton told police the reason there was so much traffic at his home recently was because he had begun making and selling a barbecue sauce that was once very popular in Letcher County when his parents, the late Henry T. and Elsie Hutton, operated a restaurant in Fleming.

Webb said the arrests of Wright and Hutton help demonstrate how hard it is to fight the drug problem in Letcher County and the crime that goes with it.

“We’re fighting a battle out here,” Webb said. “People who are selling the drugs are causing all this stealing that’s going on, too.”

“We encourage all of our citizens to openly communicate with us because people know what is going on in their neighborhoods,” said Damron.

Last week’s arrests of Wright or Hutton were not the first time the two men have been accused of violating the law.

Wright, a former biology teacher and head football coach at Fleming-Neon High School, was tried in Letcher Circuit Court twice in 2005 on charges of sodomy, sexual abuse and unlawful transaction with a minor. The alleged 14-year-old victim testified in both trials that she was molested by Wright after she went to an afterschool tutoring session to work on a term paper. She accused Wright of exposing himself to her and trying to force her to perform oral sex upon him. She also said Wright pulled her shirt open and put his mouth on her breast.

Two mistrials were declared in 2005, one in May and one in August, after juries were unable to agree on a verdict.

Hutton was indicted on May 8, 1978 for murder and was convicted of first-degree manslaughter with that charge in 1981. His civil rights were restored in May 1990.

Hutton has been a high school basketball referee for 29 years, a softball umpire for 25 years and a baseball umpire for 20 years. He was a football referee for one year. Hutton spent most of his career officiating in the 14th Region, but was most recently assigned to the 15th Region.

Wright has been a baseball umpire for the last 12 years and has worked as a softball umpire for the last 10 years.

Both Wright and Hutton had recently umpired at high school softball and baseball games.

The Neon Police Department, Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA) and Kentucky State Police assisted the sheriff ’s department with the investigation.

“ This was made possible because multiple agencies worked together,” said Damron. “The citizens of Letcher County are lucky because the agencies all work together.”

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