Whitesburg KY

Jenkins council delays action on fee increase

Business owners in Jenkins will not join residential customers in paying higher sanitation fees — at least for now.

The Jenkins City Council voted to table a request from the Jenkins Utilities Commission for price adjustments on sanitation bills for businesses until the scheduled audit of the fiscal year which ended in June reveals how much money the city is losing on its sanitation department.

Utilities Commission Chairman Kedrick Sanders presented the request for a rate adjustment to the council at its August meeting. However, after several council members said they weren’t given enough time to study the proposal and objected to raising fees on businesses until after the audit, council member Rick Damron asked that the vote be tabled until the council’s September meeting.

Sanders said the new plan probably would not raise costs for many business owners nor increase the city’s sanitation collections but would provide an equitable method of setting fees. He said too much guessing has gone into setting fees for Dumpsters and large cans for businesses in the past, and the commission came up with the new plan to standardize fees by size and number of pick-up days per week after an extensive survey of the Dumpsters and the payment rolls with Scotty Church, who works in the sanitation department.

Sanders said he and Church had purged a number of uncollectable accounts by removing people who have died or moved away. He told the council the purge would lower the sanitation department’s losses because the outstanding accounts had been counted as a deficit.

Council member Chuck Anderson said he had a problem with passing the fee adjustments at the August meeting if it meant a possible second rate hike after the council is presented with the 2007-08 audit. Anderson also questioned why it was necessary to change the rates if it meant no increase in income. He said his main objection, however, was the manner in which the plan was presented to council members.

“When we came to the meeting it was dumped in our laps,” said Anderson. “Wham and you’re voting on it. We had nothing to look at.”

Council member Carol Anne Litts also questioned the price adjustments. Litts, who owns and operates the Flower House in Jenkins, said it probably wouldn’t affect her business at all because of the small amount of garbage generated there. She said she has one can and rarely fills it. Litts said she thought the rate for the 90-gallon can, $12.25 per month for one pick-up a week, was fair, but questioned the rates for multiple pick-ups. Dumpsters are rated at $12.25 per yard per pick-up per week in the proposal, so a four-yard Dumpster emptied three times a week would cost $147 per month. Customers with unusually heavy loads, such as concrete or mud, would pay a 20 percent surcharge.

“That’s high,” said Litts. “I think that’s excessive for trash pick-up.”

Sanders replied that when tested on different businesses, the new rate structure revealed that some would be paying slightly less, most about the same, and some slightly more than they are currently paying. He said the city actually loses about $200 on the new payment structure. Sanders also said the new rate would still leave Jenkins with lower fees than other cities in the region and emphasized that the important thing is to standardize fees and make them fair.

The council voted unanimously to address the matter again in the September meeting.

In other business, Jenkins Water Superintendent Bo Hopkins reported that 31 of 144 fire hydrants in the city service area either don’t work at all or don’t work well enough to adequately fight a fire.

Hopkins said the matter was discovered while city workers were flushing hydrants in an effort to get rid of the “brown water” created by algae and bacteria that thrive in the warm weather and are killed and turn brown when they come into contact with chlorine and other chemicals used to treat city water.

The brown water has created a problem for a number of people. Lakeside resident Richard “Red” Lewis told the council that several loads of laundry had been ruined at his home by a combination of brown water and mud from a water leak. Lewis, a former council member, also told the council it had been several days between the time he reported the leak in a city-maintained line and the time it was fixed and blamed the delay on poor leadership. Council member Rebecca Terrill said surrounding cities are also experiencing problems with the brown water.

Hopkins told the council the water department is doing all it can to alleviate the problem by flushing the hydrants and said once the temperatures begin to decline, the problem will mostly go away. Hopkins also told the council the water department has begun to repair or replace nonfunctioning hydrants and considered the mater to be a high priority. Hopkins said it may take several days to replace each hydrant. He also said he only schedules leak repair on main lines and other city employees handle leaks on secondary lines such as the one at the Lewis residence. Hopkins said he has completed one entire system flush and plans to flush the system quarterly in the future. He reported losses of treated water for July of 5,318,800 gallons, or 39 percent of treated water.

Council member Damron asked about getting rid of the lily pads in Elkhorn Lake, the city’s main water supply, by using a chemical he said was authorized for use in potable (drinking) water supplies. Damron suggested switching over to the city’s secondary source in Elkhorn Creek and pumping directly into the water plant from there while poisoning the lilies.

Hopkins said the lilies will have to be taken out in sections because if they are killed all at once they will become septic. Mayor Dixon also reported receiving a letter from U.S. Senator Jim Bunning’s office concerning a request to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge the lake. Dixon said shortly after he received the letter he received a call from the Corps of Engineers asking for an estimate for dredging the lake.

Hopkins also commented on high levels of fecal bacteria in the lake. He said it is important for water customers to realize this is un-treated water and that water treatment kills the bacteria before it goes into the city lines so treated water remains uncontaminated.

Hopkins said he believes the bacteria came from a broken sewer line at Jenkins Middle High School, which he said probably drained directly into the lake. Mayor Dixon said the line has been repaired and he used money from the city property fund which comes from rental properties the city owns and maintains.

Dixon’s comment came in response to questions from council member Terry Braddock about the use of property fund money for other business. Dixon said the city was facing a possible fine of $2,500 a day for the leak and the money will be paid back to the fund.

Braddock also questioned the use of a city snow plow for cleaning a ditch on what he said is private property. City Attorney Randall Tackett said he would look into the matter, but that there is no wrongdoing or malfeasance going on in Jenkins.

In other business:

• Water Superintendent Hopkins reported water levels in Jenkins Lake are slightly down at three to five inches and said city workers will start pumping water into the lake from Elkhorn Creek. Hopkins said the plan for the summer is to begin pumping before the lake reaches lower levels in order to stay even.

• The council voted to spend $6,700 to replace a clarifier valve at the city water plant.

• Chuck Anderson presented tentative schedules for the Jenkins Homecoming Days Festival scheduled for August 21- 23. He said while some tweaking of the schedule might be necessary, it is pretty much set. Friday will be Seniors Day and Friday evening is Family Night. He also asked for nominations for Outstanding Citizen to be submitted to the committee at City Hall by August 13. Rebecca Terrill added that anyone interested in having a vehicle, bicycle, horse or other leashed animal in the parade should contact City Hall as well.

• Mayor Dixon announced that anyone wishing to run for city council should file their paperwork by August 12. Council member Terrill urged any interested citizen to consider service on the council.

• Police Chief Jim Stephens reported the Jenkins Police Department answered 167 complaints, up by 37 from June, made 24 arrests, responded to nine domestic violence calls, eight accidents and one motorist assist. Stephens said eight of the arrests were drug related and three were for driving under the influence. He also reported that 96 occupational licenses are still out and 23 vendor’s licenses are out. The police and fire departments gave rides on the fire truck to approximately 65 campers attending a summer camp at the St. George Catholic Church in Jenkins. Stephens shared the sad news that longtime pastor Father Randall is retiring from St. George.

• Outside Supervisor Shade Baldwin reported picking up 765 blue bags of recyclables in June, down considerably from May when over 1,000 bags were picked up. City workers also cut grass, cleaned the city garage, maintained vehicles, flushed hydrants, and fixed 14 water leaks.

• The council voted to accept a bid from Chris Collier for $225 for eight paddle boats which had been declared surplus property.

• The council voted unanimously to approve a resolution requiring the city’s “Kiddy Park” to be used exclusively for children and no other purpose. The resolution will keep the city in compliance with the terms of the grant which allowed for renovations to the park.

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