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Jenkins council learns of police force changes

The City of Jenkins is making sweeping changes to the Jenkins Police Department in the wake of the resignation of Chief Jim Stephens, who requested reassignment to patrol duty to get away from all the paperwork involved with the chief ’s job. Sgt. Adam Swindall is currently serving as acting chief.

Mayor Charles Dixon said at the Jenkins City Council’s December meeting this week that an ad for a new chief has been placed in The Mountain Eagle
and he has appointed a police commission for the city to help with hiring, firing, procedural work, policies and complaints.

In his report to the council, Dixon said the new commission will examine all aspects of the police department and make recommendations to the mayor. Dixon said he appointed two commissioners — George Smith and Jeanette Ladd — who do not live in the city so they will not have personal issues that a resident might have. The other commissioners are: Ked Sanders, Charles Meade, City Attorney Randall Tackett, the police chief, and the mayor.

Acting Chief Swindall reported completing changes, updates, and additions to 15 departmental policies and upgrading several forms to better document departmental activities. Swindall reported that officers responded to 104 complaints, wrote nine citations, and made six arrests in November. Two of the arrests were domestic violence related, three resulted from warrants, and one was drug related. Officers also issued six warnings, helped three motorists, and worked a total of nine vehicle collisions, one with injuries. Swindall said the number of collisions was unusually high.

Swindall also said the department received $4,998 in coal severance funding from the Letcher County Fiscal Court, which will be used to purchase computer software for “mobile data terminals” in city police cruisers that allow officers to access state databases for information such as driver’s history, warrants, and stolen vehicles.

In other business, the council issued an “Unsung Heroes” citation to Don Amburgey, founder and director of the Little Shepherd Amphitheater in Jenkins. Mayor Dixon credited Amburgey’s “bulldog” tenacity during the more than 10 years it took to get the theater going. Dixon said that because of Amburgey’s efforts, the city now has a first class outdoor theater which completed its maiden run in 2009. He added that he expects the theater to create tourism opportunities that will contribute to the city’s economic growth.

Amburgey told the council the theater will work on additional seating and sound and lighting during the off season this year and will start rehearsing for “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” drama in January. He attributed much of the theater’s success to volunteers along with the help of the Letcher County Fiscal Court and the Letcher County Tourism Commission. Amburgey said the drama will open on June 19 and added that he especially looks forward to working with Civil War re-enactors for a combined re-enactment and production on August 7 and 8. Council member Terry Braddock reminded Amburgey that he had been chosen as “Most Improved Actor” by his fellow cast members.

The Utilities Report contained bad news on the topic of water leaks. Water Department Superintendent James “Bo” Hopkins told the council the city produced 15,395,000 gallons of water and only sold 4,102,000, for a difference of 11,293,000 gallons, or 73 percent potential water loss. Only 3,234,000 gallons could be accounted for, including 1,044,000 from line breaks, which left an unaccounted for water loss of 8,059,000, or 52 percent of all treated water produced in November.

In response to questions from council members Carol Anne Litts and Rebecca Terrill, Hopkins said the situation probably won’t improve much until new lines are run. He added that there are a lot of old water meters in the city’s system and they tend to run slow and under-report water usage.

Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who is working with the city on the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project and other water and sewer projects, told the council that line replacement will be underway soon. He said that the Payne Gap Project is now completely in the hands of the city and added that when meters are replaced it is likely that those users with new meters will see a slight increase in their water usage due to the new meters providing correct readings.

Matt Curtis of Nesbitt Engineering reported on several water and sewer projects that will soon be underway for the city. The Number Two Bottom Sewer Project will have pre-construction meetings within 30 days and should start construction just after New Year’s. The Camden Road Water Line Project has been approved by the Kentucky Department of Water and a Memorandum of Agreement is underway with Abandoned Mine Lands. The project will go to bid on December 30 and bids will be opened on January 13.

Curtis also reported that Phase I of the water line replacement is proceeding and that City Attorney Tackett has been instrumental in obtaining easements for property crossings. He said he expects to ask the council for permission to place bids in January and hopes Phase I will be complete by December 2010.

In other business, the council:

• Learned that country music singer Marlow Tackett will have his annual Christmas for the Needy at the Gateway Industrial Park on December 20. Ked Sanders told the council that food, clothing, toys, home furnishings, furniture, and other items will be provided to those in need. Sanders said Tackett already has four tractor trailer loads of goods from North Carolina and one from Tennessee and expects three more for a total of eight. Tackett will sponsor a Christmas music concert on December 19. To make donations, call 832-1290.

• Heard a complaint about the water rate increases that will go into effect in January from Burdine resident Roger Johnson. Johnson told the council he has lived on East Jenkins Hill for 58 years and has city water but no sewer service. He said that under the guidelines from Rural Development, his rate per 1000 gallons will increase by 50 percent, from $12.00 to $18.00 per thousand gallons per month. At the same time, Johnson said those with water and sewer service will see a one dollar increase in their rates. Council member Todd DePriest said the council should check with RD and see why the rate increase is so steep.

• Opened bids for replacing heating and air conditioning units for both floors of City Hall. The low bid went to Anderson Heating and Air Conditioning for a total of $15,200.

• Voted unanimously to accept the second reading of Ordinance 215, which gives a 30 day grace period on city licenses. The licenses are due on January 1, with the grace period extending to January 31.

• Voted unanimously to provide either a turkey or ham to every city employee for Christmas.

• Voted unanimously to allow one free city sticker for each active member of the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department.

• Learned that TECO Coal has offered to give the streets at the Raven Rock Golf Course housing development to the city so city workers can maintain them for homeowners. Mayor Dixon said the homeowners are citizens who pay taxes and have city utilities but at present, city workers can’t scrape or salt their streets because they are private property. City Attorney Tackett recommended that Dixon ask TECO for a survey plat so they will have more exact information to file with the Letcher County Clerk’s office.

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