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Jenkins council declines to vote on alcohol sales

The Jenkins City Council declined this week to vote on a proposal that would enable qualifying restaurants and hotels to sell alcoholic beverages.

A motion to adopt an ordinance that would enable Jenkins to become the 23rd Kentucky city with “limited” alcohol sales died after not being seconded at the council’s October meeting Monday night. Council members who declined to act on the motion introduced by Councilman Terry Braddock said it should be left up to Jenkins citizens to decide whether to allow alcohol sales.

A delegation of local ministers led by former council member Joe Walters appeared at the meeting to ask the council to maintain the status quo and keep the city dry. Walters cited a number of statistics he said came from state records about alcohol-related accidents and was joined by ministers Fred Woods and Tony Carson. Walters, who also serves as chaplain to the Jenkins High School football team, said he realizes that times are tough economically but believes there are other ways to bring revenue into the city without alcohol sales.

Carson, pastor at Emanuel Baptist Church in Jenkins, told the council that he and his wife have lived elsewhere but returned to Jenkins for third time because they love the city. Carson said Jenkins could be a great town, but not if it was built on a foundation of sin. He said Jenkins could be the “Jewel in the Mountains,” as it has been described, but only if it is built on the “rock of Jesus.” (In mentioning the town as the Jewel of the Mountains, Carson was referring to the slogan Mayor Charles Dixon has adopted from past descriptions of the city in its heyday.)

“The dream doesn’t include alcohol,” said Carson. “If you vote for this you will be sticking a knife in the heart of your mayor.”

Jenkins resident Mike Chavis spoke in favor of Braddock’s motion, saying that for him it is an economic matter. Chavis said that the city doesn’t currently have the tax base or resources to accomplish its goals and that the added income from alcohol sales would boost the city’s financial status. Chavis said the alternative will be to raise taxes in order to pay for city services and that legal alcohol sales are readily available just across the state line in Virginia anyway.

“The town needs tax money,” said Chavis. “Where else will they get it? It will come from the citizens. The tax burden will be on you. Beth-Elkhorn is gone and TECO will be gone soon. The coal business will be gone soon. It’s three miles to the state line and you can get all the beer you want there. It’s an individual decision to drink. For me it’s an economic issue.”

Lakeside resident Richard Lewis spoke against the ordinance and accused the council of trying to fool the public by placing “wet vote” on the agenda as item 13.2. After thanking the council for a recent ordinance prohibiting the feeding of geese, Lewis said that from reading the report on last month’s council meeting in The Mountain Eagle, he had the impression that City Attorney Randall Tackett would simply present the conclusions of his research on state liquor laws, but when he saw the wet vote on the agenda he thought it was a “low” move by the council.

Lewis’s allegations brought a quick and angry response from Council Member Rebecca Terrill. Terrill told Lewis that the council will do nothing without bringing it before the citizens of Jenkins and asked Lewis where he got his information. Lewis replied that Council Member Chuck Anderson told him about the vote.

Anderson replied that he may have misspoken. He told the council he had been out of town for the weekend and that he had just seen the agenda when he spoke to Lewis. He said the agenda made it look like a vote would take place that evening.

“By the looks of the agenda, it looks like we’re having a wet vote,” said Anderson. “I just conveyed what was said at the last meeting and written in The Mountain Eagle.”

City Attorney Tackett then told the council that as a fourth-class city, Jenkins has the statutory ability to conduct a wet/dry vote through a public referendum or, if it is deemed by the council to be an economic emergency, by passing an ordinance limiting alcohol sales to hotels with 50 or more rooms and to restaurants with 100 or more seats. He said the city can also conduct a referendum to allow beer sales in grocery stores, the creation of liquor stores, and bars and restaurants to sell liquor and beer.

Terrill said the council had asked Tackett to look into the matter and see what the city’s options were and that nobody had any intention of passing an ordinance without allowing the community to vote on the question.

“And now Mr. Lewis,” said Terrill. “You’ve heard what we heard, what we were supposed to do here. Nothing was done behind anybody’s back.”

Councilman Braddock, who brought up the idea of legalizing alcohol sales at the council’s September meeting, told those attending this week’s meeting that his intention was to build up the city by using alcohol sales to entice businesses that would benefit by selling alcohol beverages by the drink. Braddock said the U.S. 23 corridor and the Raven Rock Golf Course are areas he believes would benefit from alcohol sales. Braddock said his economic development ideas are designed to provide more revenue for the city and to provide opportunities for young people in Jenkins so they will stay in the area and refrain from using drugs.

“If we do this vote, nobody can go out and buy a beer tomorrow,” said Braddock. “We have to have hotels and restaurants. Our kids need jobs. Dope is a much greater concern to me. Get these kids out from behind closed doors and into jobs. Everything I’m doing is to create jobs.”

Council Member Rick Damron said he would not vote in support of a motion to allow alcohol sales without a vote by citizens and he doubted that the others on the council would either. Anderson and Terrill agreed with Damron.

“The public should make this decision,” said Terrill. “The people who live here have the right to make the decision. I don’t think the council should make this decision.”

Mayor Dixon said Braddock had every right to present his case for legalizing alcohol sales. Dixon said that although he and Braddock have had their differences on past issues before the council, he fully supported Braddock’s right to introduce a motion for an ordinance.

“I taught U.S. Government,” said Dixon. “In a democracy, people can bring things up. Terry brought this up and it’s his right. I don’t drink, but I believe it’s a personal choice.”

Braddock listed several businesses he had spoken with that would be interested in locating in Jenkins if alcohol sales were allowed. He said Jenkins has traditionally been the last place to develop and that people are leaving the city every year from lack of opportunity. Braddock cited a $450,000 loan the city is getting ready to incur for water line reconstruction and asked how much more the town could stand without additional revenue. Braddock told the council he does not support selling beer in grocery stores or establishing liquor stores in Jenkins.

“My reasons are honorable,” said Braddock. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in town. I told them I would introduce a wet/dry vote. I said if Jenkins could develop without alcohol sales I wouldn’t introduce it, but it hasn’t.”

In other business, Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders reported bad news on water leaks. The city produced 16,980,000 gallons in September and sold 4,590,000, leaving a difference of 12,390,000, or 73 percent of treated water potentially lost. Of that, 7,764,334 gallons are unaccounted for, or a 46 percent unaccounted for loss of treated water. Sanders said the most frustrating part is that many of the leaks prove to be very difficult to find while others reveal themselves. Mayor Dixon said city crews are spending so much time fixing water leaks it is hard for them to do their other work.

Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering reported that the city will take bids on the Number Two Bottom sewer project on Thursday, October 8, and that work should begin by the first of the year. He said the letter of conditions for the loan from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency for Phase One of the water line replacement project is being prepared by RD and should be ready by the next meeting. Funding applications for Phase Two are being submitted. Nesbitt said he hopes to be able to put a package together that will not require the city to enter into further debt.

Nesbitt also told the council he has found funding for the demolition of abandoned houses in Jenkins through the Kentucky Brownfields Program. Nesbitt said the disposal of the materials had attracted the state agency’s interest and that its funding would greatly increase the city’s capacity to remove blighted properties.

Police Chief Jim Stephens reported that the Jenkins Police Department responded to 114 complaints, wrote eight citations, and made 17 arrests in September. One arrest stemmed for domestic violence, one from a DUI, and eight were drug related. Officers served four arrest warrants and responded to seven accidents, four injury and three non-injury, with one motorist assist.

Stephens said officers have conducted several “walkthroughs” at Jenkins High School recently to establish better relations with students and staff and to familiarize themselves with the building’s layout in case of an emergency.

Stephens said citizens should not be concerned about the walkthroughs, which he said are being conducted so students will become more familiar with police officers and learn that not all contact with a policeman has a negative result. He said the walkthroughs make officers more approachable for youth if they find themselves in need of help and that drug incidents have dropped in the school since they started.

In other council business:

• Fire Chief Rick Corbett reported that the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department answered 14 alarms in September including small fires, mutual aid, and EMS. He said October is Fire Prevention Month and asked people to check their smoke alarms to make sure batteries are charged and alarms are working. He added that no progress has been made in obtaining emergency medical services for the city, which Rick Damron said is more critical now in the absence of an emergency room. The council voted to declare a 2002 Denali owned by the fire department as surplus.

• Mayor Dixon cautioned that if residents of Jenkins don’t start recycling more, garbage fees will almost certainly have to be raised to pay landfill costs. City workers picked up 782 blue bags of recyclables, the lowest total since April. Workers fixed 12 water leaks and installed or cleaned two culverts. Dixon added that road paving this year was considerably down due to a decrease in state road funding.

• The Halloween Safe Night has been scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31 in the City Park from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. The same hours will be observed for trick-or-treating.

• A bid for demolition of the Collier Property on Brick Street was awarded to David Addington for $3,890. Addington made the only bid. The council also voted to advertise the property for sale as soon as demolition is complete and grass is planted.

• Mayor Dixon reported that Cindy Gentry and her family have relocated to a house in Wheaton Hollow and are satisfied with their arrangement. Gentry’s home was ruined by a sewer back-up in Burdine that occurred because to a contractor error.

• The council voted to change the due date for occupational licenses from January 1, 2010 to January 31, 2010 to go along with the due date for city stickers. Mayor Dixon said occupational license fees will need to be updated as well.

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