Pointing to an operating loss of $79,000 in the city’s sanitation department, the Jenkins City Council voted to raise garbage fees by $3 per month for homes and 35 percent for businesses.
The vote to raise the monthly fees came after the council voted unanimously to pass the second reading of the city’s operating budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The council learned of the $79,000 sanitation deficit after hearing a report from Lexington accountant Rodney Welch, a former Jenkins residents who audits the city’s books. Welch told the council that the 2015 audit shows the solid waste department with losses of $65,000 in “real money,” including increases in salaries and tipping fees.
“You have to look at solid waste fees because you lose money year after year,” Welch said. “That has to be addressed.”
Mayor Todd Depriest said the city is losing a total of $79,000 on sanitation including depreciation.
Depriest said Welch had suggested a monthly rate increase of $6 for both homes and residential customers, but that he changed the proposed increase to $3 per customer and 35 percent increase for commercial customers — amounts that he said will still leave the city about $9,000 short.
“We’ve been looking at every opportunity to save money, said Depriest. He said he “would like a rate that will cover everything,” but said population losses and job losses have resulted in hard times for both the city and its residents. “This puts us in line with the county and Neon,” Depriest said.
Councilman Rick Damron asked about non-city customers who don’t pay their bills, but Depriest said there are only two or three. He said recycling needs to become more profitable as well.
“I believe we can find the other $9,000 in time,” said Depriest. “If things were perfect we would be looking at $80,000 (sanitation increase).”
The motion to raise the garbage pickup rates was introduced by Council Member Rebecca Amburgey after Councilman Rick Damron reminded the council that Welch “told us it’s our duty to provide a balanced budget.”
“I hate to be the bad guy, but you have to pay your bills,” said Amburgey. The vote was 4-1 with Damron voting no. He told the council he would like to set rates by measuring the amount of garbage that is picked up at each home, but Depriest said that would be difficult to calculate and is probably impractical.
The effective date for the sanitation rate hikes is July 1.
City Attorney Randall Tackett conducted the second reading of the proposed 2016-17 budget. The balanced budget showed total expenses of $1,890,031 against revenue of $1,890,031. Of those amounts, the following expenses and revenue are allotted:
• General Fund, $810,481
• Local Government Economic Assistance Fund (severance tax), $70,500
• Road Fund, $54,450
• Water Fund, $457,300
• Sewer Fund, $305,300
• Solid Waste Fund, $192,000
In presenting the audit, Welch told council members the city is in pretty good shape but needs to reduce a number of small accounts that cause confusion.
“You aren’t alone,” said Welch, adding that city engineer Paul Nesbitt told him that many of the accounts are from various water and sewer projects that have since been completed, but have a little money left over. Welch added that some people and businesses that owe money to the city are paying late. The audit showed general fund cash for 2015 at $92,000, taxes receivable at $43,000 for a negative balance of $125,000 more than the income. Welch attributed this to several things, mostly unpaid property taxes, which he said are a sign of the bad local economy.
Welch said the city and Mayor Depriest are to be commended for cutting expenditures, which he said are down considerably. General government costs stand at $568,000. Police costs are $191,000 and fire costs are $22,000. Parks and Recreation showed $73,000 in income, mostly from the swimming pool. Total city expenditures for 2015 were $1,113,000, lower than the $1,724,000 in 2014. Welch also cautioned the city that revenue from water and sewer receipts have to be sufficient to allow for existing loans to be repaid.
In other business, Council Member Amburgey said she has received complaints about a rental home in No. 2 Bottom, where the grass is growing up around an abandoned truck and renters left a lot of junk. She said neighbors have complained about rats as well. Amburgey said that overall it is a nice neighborhood and the landlord needs to clean it up. City Attorney Tackett asked if it was bad enough to be considered a public nuisance and she replied that it is.
Councilman Damron added that there is another very bad house in Camden that appears blighted and deteriorated. He said that late Jenkins businessman Roy Wright used to live there and that one person wants to buy the property and build a new house there.
Depriest also told the council the city needs to replace one policeman who has left to work at another department. Depriest said he is trying to find a certified officer to fill the vacancy, and added that the city is working with the Fleming- Neon Police, the Sheriff ’s Department and Kentucky State Police make sure calls are covered.
Jenkins Police Chief Jim Stephens said the department responded to 85 complaints in May, of which three were domestic violence calls and seven were accidents. He added that officers made 32 arrests, with 23 of them coming from warrants while six were drug related. There was one DUI arrest, one for a domestic violence order violation, and one shoplifting arrest. The department also issued 36 citations and two warnings, and participated in the Kentucky Department of Highways’ “Click it or Ticket” program, making road checks at the Kentucky/ Virginia state line as well as the Letcher/Pike County line.
Stephens also mentioned an increase in bear activity and said he has talked with Ken Amburgey of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Stephens said Amburgey told him he is trapping the bears, and that he gave the Jenkins Police some shotgun shells loaded with rubber pellets for shooting nuisance bears.
Depriest expressed sympathy to the family late Councilman Kyle Walker, saying he was a fine man and a fine councilman. Depriest said the council will leave Walker’s chair empty for the month as a show of respect.
“ I hope we can find somebody with his heart and work ethic,” said Depriest.
Former Pikeville Mayor and current City Councilman Frank Justice also attended this week’s council meeting. Justice is running for the 94th District State Representatives seat and told the council he is getting out to meet people.
Justice said he is interested in bringing high speed Internet to the area and attracting much-needed new jobs. He said he is also interested in transitional housing and wants to try to help the coal industry recover in a way in which miners can be put back to work.