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Jenkins council hears complaints

The Jenkins City Council this week heard complaints from several citizens about high water bills. The council also heard a complaint about a city police officer from an angry parent.

Shirley Hunsaker told the council at its February meeting Monday night that a city police officer came to her house and said he might have to arrest her son, but said he first had to check for warrants. When no records of any pending warrants could be found the officer left, Hunsaker said.

Police Chief Jim Stephens told the council he has already addressed the matter and that no further action was taken. Hunsaker also complained about her water bill, which she said was outrageous. She said she had been without water for several days and the city had finally disconnected it.

Wanda Gross told the council she had an ongoing situation where her water line was exposed and dangled in the air which caused it to freeze easily. Water Department Superintendent Bo Hopkins told the council that the water meter servicing the line in question is located in Brook Lane, which has no city service, and had been installed on an emergency basis with the line from the meter to the house having been installed by a previous property owner. The line runs across property belonging to the estate of late police chief Bill Tackett, but was never buried by the previous owner. Bulldozer work on the property left the line exposed.

The city is responsible for water lines up to the water meter, but lines from the meters to homes are the property owner’s responsibility. Council member Rebecca Terrill said the situation should be corrected because Gross has been deprived of water through no fault of her own.

“She’s in the city limits,” said Terrill. “And she should have service. Why don’t the people in Brook Lane have city water? They pay city taxes. We’re providing water for Kane Branch and McPeeks Branch and they don’t want to be in the city and don’t pay taxes. As a city we need to take responsibility for people who live in the city limits and make sure they are taken care of first.”

Asked by Mayor Charles Dixon if a city line could be installed, Hopkins said it would be about 1,500 feet in length. Hopkins said he would ask City Engineer Paul Nesbitt to determine the best way to install the line, but added that is was unlikely the other property owner on Brook Lane would hook onto the line because he already has a water well.

Camden resident Mike Chavis complained to the council about bills for water service to a home which had belonged to his late father “Trinidad,” a long time community activist and children’s advocate. Chavis said the water bills were exorbitant. Chavis said he has installed new lines and new fixtures throughout the house and has conducted tests to assure that no leaks are present, but the bill reflects excessive usage. He said the lone renter works long shifts and isn’t home enough to use that much water.

In response to a question from council member Rick Damron, Chavis said water pressure going to the meter was 150 pounds per square inch. Damron said he had a similar problem at his home, also in Camden, and was able to solve it with a pressure reducer.

Police Chief Jim Stephens said in his report to the council that the police department responded to 93 complaints and made 17 arrests during January. Seven of the arrests stemmed from warrants, two were for driving under the influence, and two were for domestic violence incidents. Stephens said officers have also contacted each business in the city to remind them of the city’s occupational license ordinance and to remind them that employees working in the city have to purchase city stickers. The grace period expired on January 31. Stephens said a February 1 roadblock resulted in 22 citations for no city sticker being written.

Stephens also told the council that Officer Tim Miller has graduated from the Basic Training Academy and has returned to duty and Officer Scott Ratliff entered the academy in January.

Utilities Board Chairman Ked Sanders “confessed” to forgetting to purchase two city stickers and asked Stephens to cite him, saying he would pay his fine and purchase the stickers the following day. The fine for no city sticker is $20 for each violation.

Council member Damron complimented Stephens on the police department’s response to a recent emergency on Pine Mountain and the rescue of three stranded hikers, one with a broken leg. He said Stephens had done an excellent job in setting up the command post. Stephens deflected the praise and said it belonged with the people from the fire department who had been on the mountain conducting the rescue. Stephens said that every agency involved worked very well together.

In response to a question about the possibility of working with a proposed ATV rescue unit proposed by Letcher County Homeland Security Director Paul Miles, Stephens said most first responders in Jenkins are volunteers and have other jobs which might make full time participation difficult, but said his department will cooperate whenever possible.

Fire Chief Rick Corbett added testily that the county had not asked the city for any input on the rescue unit.

The council also voted unanimously to accept the city audit from accountant Rodney Welch. Welch said the city is basically in good shape but ongoing losses in the utilities, particularly in sanitation, need to be address for it to be fully sound financially.

In other council matters:

• Water Superintendent Bo Hopkins reported a 71 percent loss of treated water for January. Hopkins said that 394,666 gallons had been lost in state mandated monitors and although they haven’t been reported in the past, they will be an ongoing part of future reporting. He also said a significant leak in Smokey Row is over 24 feet deep and is unsafe for workers to get to. The water department will isolate the line and run another around it. Hopkins said the unusual depth of the line is a result of fills dating back to the 1912 beginnings of the city. He said another deep line in Marshall’s Branch will have to be replaced as well.

• The water report stated that the city treated 15,338,000 gallons of water and sold 4,457,000 gallons. Total losses, accounted and unaccounted, amounted to 10,881,000 gallons. Of that 6,395,334 were unaccounted for losses or 42 percent of all treated water.

• Dixon said in his report to the council that the city had already spent over $10,000 on road salt this winter and the landfill bill for December was $6,131.80. He also reminded citizens of the importance of recycling to help defray landfill costs.

Dixon told the council he will make sure police officers enforce the city sticker ordinance, which he said is the prime source for money used to purchase road salt. Dixon also called on citizens to insulate their water lines and meters to avoid freezing in the unusually cold weather.

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