Whitesburg KY

Financially-strapped Jenkins looking at cutting vehicle tax

The Jenkins City Council will be delayed in finishing the tax rates for the coming year until City Manager Benny McCall can determine how much a proposed one percent cut in the city’s motor vehicle tax rate will cost.

At the September meeting, Mayor Todd Depriest told the council that the city could really use the additional revenue a tax increase would bring, but said that with times as hard as they are, he would recommend the rates remain the same as last year’s. However, Councilman Rick Damron told Depriest that he had recently purchased a new vehicle, and the city tax hadn’t been included in the price. Damron said he went to the county court clerk’s office to request that the Jenkins tax be added and was surprised to see that it cost him an additional $300.

Damron said that while he wants to make sure his fair share of taxes go to the city, he felt the motor vehicle tax was somewhat high and asked that it be lowered by one point, adding that he believes high taxes prevent some businesses and potential residents from locating in the city. Councilman Garnett Bentley agreed, but said the blame for the city’s high tax rates should be placed on Jenkins Independent Schools, which have a considerably higher rate than the city itself.

Depriest told Damron that at this time, the city budget is really stretched and that if any cuts are made, it will result in an item on the budget losing funding. Council member Rebecca Amburgey asked McCall if he knew how much money the city will lose if the requested cut is made, and McCall said he didn’t have the information he needed at that time but he could have the answer soon. Amburgey said she would prefer to table the vote on tax rates until McCall comes up with the amount and Depriest agreed, saying the council can still get the information to the Letcher County Fiscal Court by the deadline if the council waits until the October 3 meeting to vote.

In other business, Rebecca Amburgey pointed out a clause in the city’s TV franchise agreement that requires that each cable television and Internet customer in Jenkins must renew the contract with the city’s provider, Inter Mountain Cable, on an annual basis. If the customer does not renew, IMC will renew at a slightly higher rate. The Mountain Eagle spoke with IMC representative Rodney Wiley about the matter and Wiley said that the promotions that make up the plans are done on a 12-month basis, and if the customer does not renew, the pricing reverts to the ala carte pricing, which may be higher. However, Wiley added that customers are notified 30 days before their contract expires and that if they will call the help desk, they can renew their contract at the original rate even if their agreement has expired and they have received the ala carte price. He added that the company will work with customers to help meet their needs and requirements.

Council member Toni Jenkins, who was recently appointed to fill the seat vacated by the death of Kyle Walker, told the council she has received calls from several citizens who are concerned about dirt bikes and ATVs riding recklessly in the city and riding at night without lights. Mayor Depriest replied that when the city became an ATV friendly city, there was no intention that ATV riders or dirt bike riders would be allowed to skirt the laws and anyone on an ATV or motorcycle must obey state laws and the city’s ATV ordinance, which calls for ATV riders to be insured, wear a helmet, and have a valid driver’s license.

Jenkins Police Chief Jim Stephens addressed the council on the matter as well, and said that the city police try to control the riders who are breaking the law as much as they can, but that the department is shorthanded and that the riders who do not intend to follow the laws often wait until officers are in one part of the city before driving recklessly or performing other illegal acts in another. He said that when they are caught, adults are arrested and taken to jail, but that it is a different matter with minors, who must be taken to their parents before any further action is taken. He added that parents need to cooperate with police to ensure the safety of their children and the public at large, but that some parents consider the ATVs to be a baby-sitting method and just want their children out of the house.

Stephens told the council that he plans to instruct officers to begin to seize the ATVs of riders who are breaking the law in an effort to motivate the parents of minors to be more cooperative in controlling their children. He said it is very difficult for officers to pursue the riders in a police cruiser since some riders are not at all concerned with the public safety and others will simply turn off the road and head into the mountains to escape.

The Jenkins Police Department answered 100 complaints in August, of which one was for a domestic violence incident, and five were accidents with injuries and one without. Officers also made three motorist assists, issued eight citations, and made seven arrests. Six of the arrests were the result of warrants. The department also assisted the Whitesburg Police Department and Letcher County Sheriff ’s Office in the apprehension of an armed robbery suspect, who was arrested without incident. Stolen money and guns were recovered and Stephens called the incident a great example of mutual cooperation among the three agencies.

Jenkins officers also visited the Burdine Elementary School for Public Service Day and in a separate incident, with the aid of the Burdine Elementary staff, they resolved a suspicious person incident at the school. Stephens said this demonstrated the level of commitment the staff at Jenkins Schools has to the safety and wellbeing of students. Michael Garner joined the department after previously working with the Virginia Department of Corrections. Garner is a member of the US. Army Reserve and will attend the Kentucky Basic Police Academy soon. Stephens thanked the Homecoming Committee for a great Homecoming Festival.

In other city business:

• The council voted unanimously to declare the old Fleming Electric property at East Jenkins surplus to be sold.

• Rick Damron reported that the Gary Stewart Festival will be held on October 1 at the Little Shepherd Amphitheatre. The Tim Bentley Band will headline the show. Stewart is a native of Jenkins who had a number of country music hits before he died in 2003.

• City Attorney Randall Tackett also told the council that a storytelling festival will be held at the Breaks Interstate Park September 22-24 and the history of Jenkins will be the subject of most of the stories. Admission is free.

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