Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer has sent a letter to the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) withdrawing the City of Jenkins’s request for $240,000 in fine money the City of Whitesburg believed it would be getting.
The money in question is part of a $500,000 sum that Mountain Rail Properties, a sister corporation to Childers Oil Company of Whitesburg, agreed to pay to settle a lawsuit the state filed after the North Fork of the Kentucky River was contaminated by diesel fuel spills in late 2008 and early 2009.
In a “consent judgment” entered September 23, 2010 in Franklin Circuit Court, Mountain Rail Properties agreed to pay $240,000 to “be used by the local government for sanitary line extension and or rehabilitation projects.”
In the motion filed in Frankfort January 7, Whitesburg City Attorney James Asher says the City of Whitesburg “believed and continues to believe that it was ‘the local government’ referenced” in the settlement approved by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd.
Asher’s motion acknowledges that Jenkins is also in Letcher County, but says Jenkins “was not impacted by the allegations” con- tained in the state’s suit against Mountain Rail Properties. In fact, says the motion, Jenkins is not even “situated within the (Kentucky River) watershed impacted” by the fuel tank spills.
“The City of Jenkins is approximately 11 miles upriver from the spill area and located on a separate watershed (Big Sandy), and to the best of Whitesburg’s knowledge suffered no damage or loss,” the motion says.
At first Kincer said he wanted to be a good neighbor to Whitesburg, but that he was not planning to give the money up unless he was ordered to do so. Kincer said on April 25 that there is no need to bicker back and forth.
“I feel like our project is small enough that it can wait,” said Kincer. “All in all, this was a better way to end this so we get on with our projects for our cities. I thought it was best that we step out and allow them to fix their problem.”
Kincer said in the letter he wrote Friday “it has become clear that the City of Whitesburg has again become overwhelmed with another petroleum contamination of its water supply, affecting not only the city but other significant parts of the lower county. We have now been informed that the City of Whitesburg is in need of funding to create an early warning system against future petroleum contaminations. We understand the difficulties and the responsibilities of trying to maintain a potable water system for an entire city.
“ Knowing what lies ahead for the City of Whitesburg, it is our feeling that we should withdraw from requesting the Childers Oil Trust Fund that we previously awarded for the Dairy Hollow project by the Division of Water.
“It is important, however, that the Division of Water continue to assist us in the funding of our project as soon as possible. We wish the City of Whitesburg the very best in solving their problem and stand ready to be of further assistance.
“Thank you for your efforts in serving the State of Kentucky and its communities, and we look forward to finishing our project with your assistance.”
Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft said the Division of Water wants the City to lower the intake so water is not taken off the top, but rather from the middle or bottom of the river. Craft said this would cost $320,000 to move the pipes and redo the intake.
“It’s a pretty good size deal,” said Craft.
Craft wants to install a hydrocarbon sensor near the water intake and another hydrocarbon sensor 500 feet up the river, which would automatically shut off the plant or sound an alarm if diesel fuel came close to the intake. Craft said the sensor system is estimated to cost $150,000.
Craft said the two projects have not formally been approved by the DOW. The DOW spokesperson left the office before returning calls from The Mountain Eagle to confirm which projects would be approved.
Kincer said in addition to using $176,000 to put in water and sewer lines in Dairy Hollow, he was going to add water and sewer to the Little Shepherd Amphitheatre, which is outside the Jenkins limits.
“ The irony is we were never in the fight because what we were doing was for the county,” said Kincer. “We are showing we care about other cities. It’s not just about us.”
Kincer said he won’t give up on finding funding for the water and sewer projects.
“We are committed to that,” said Kincer.
Craft is happy Kincer submitted the letter to DOW.
“I appreciate him backing out of the competition for that money so the people of Whitesburg and on down the line can get what they need in terms of protection,” said Craft. “What benefits Whitesburg ultimately benefi ts them, too, because we all live in the same county.”