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Jenkins finally OK’s garbage plan

After several months of wrangling and discussion, the Jenkins City Council managed this week to come up with an “equitable” garbage rate structure for business customers.

In a split vote, the council agreed at its January meeting Monday to use a “step-up” (or step-down, depending on the customer) to bring all rates for businesses to $3.75 per cubic yard by July 2009. Voting for the measure were council members Rebecca Terrill, Rick Damron, and Todd DePriest, who was elected in November. Carol Anne Litts, Terry Braddock, and Chuck Anderson voted against the measure. Mayor Charles Dixon broke the tie and the measure passed.

After a heated discussion about the matter in the December meeting, Mayor Dixon asked Damron and Anderson to get together and see if they could come up with a plan to reach equity in rates. Although Anderson worked on the proposal that passed, he still spoke against the rate change as well as voting against it.

“If we’re in such bad shape, how did we pay cash for a new truck three years ago?” Anderson asked. “I opposed a rapid increase and decrease. That was my objection. It’s just a different philosophy. We will have differ- ent rates every month until June.”

Carol Anne Litts and Terry Braddock also opposed adopting the measure. Litts, who owns and operates The Flower House in Jenkins, said it didn’t make sense to her that her rate would be reduced when the city needs money. Braddock said he thought Anderson had the right idea at the last meeting. However, Todd DePriest, who previously served on the council, joined with Damron and Terrill to make a case for adjusting the rates and said the measure passed at the last meeting to charge new customers $3.75 a ton while leaving the other rates alone would create problems.

“You have to start somewhere,” said DePriest. “Businesses can do more recycling. You can’t tell new customers they will be paying $3.75 a ton while others pay less. A little bump in the rate shouldn’t hurt. It costs a lot to dump the garbage. We have to meet the bottom line.”

Damron and Terrill both agreed with DePriest. Damron jokingly said he was running out of colored ink on his printer making the color-coded charts to show the wide ranging difference in rates and told the council that it is the council’s duty to run the city without going into the red.

“This is not really a raise,” said Damron. “It makes the rates equitable. It steps rates up or down to get to $3.75 a cubic yard by July. A number will be decreased, some will stay the same. If we do this now, it will cost more for some. If we don’t, we’re not doing our jobs as council members. The $3.75 is a lot less than most places charge. The average is $6.00.”

The rate changes will take effect in the next billing cycle. Mayor Dixon said it will probably be necessary to buy a new packer truck soon, citing an incident last month when the truck broke down and parts had to be brought in from the dealer in Kingsport. Dixon also pointed to the city’s annual audit, which he said begins on January 6. He said the results of the audit will inform the council on setting a final rate.

In other business, Terry Braddock told the council that he has called the Kentucky Attorney General’s office to complain about what he considers to be excessive water bills. Braddock said he believes there is only a one percent chance that the bills are the result of bad intentions, but that one percent was enough for him to take his concerns to the office of Attorney General Jack Conway. Braddock said the matter is no longer in his hands.

In other water related matters, Water Dept. Superintendent Bo Hopkins reported a main line break on Lakeside. Hopkins said the line had been marked as a possible problem for several weeks and finally broke, spewing treated water into Jenkins Lake. He said the line wasn’t leaking before it broke but the sounds indicated that it would eventually break. Councilman Damron said it would be a good idea to schedule repairs on such matters. However, Mayor Dixon said city workers spend the majority of their time repairing leaks in the aging system and often have to stop doing other jobs to make the repairs.

“We fixed 157 water leaks last year,” said Dixon. “They can’t take the Christmas decorations down for fixing water leaks.”

The city lost 10,351,000 gallons of treated water in December, including 6,326,000 gallons which were accounted for. Of that number, 5,414,000 gallons were lost in line breaks, with 4,025,000 gallons unaccounted for. The water plant produced a total of 14,954,000 gallons.

City Engineer Paul Nesbitt told the council that help, in the form of funding for both phases of the project to replace all water lines in the city, is on the way, and that Nesbitt Engineering will also send Mark Fibus, a specialist in waste water management engineering, to meet with sewer plant manager David Richardson soon. He said Nesbitt Engineering has obtained SX (sewer project) and WX (water project) numbers for several projects, including the water line replacement. Nesbitt said the numbers are required by the state and will put Jenkins in line to receive quick funding as soon as it becomes available.

Nesbitt told the council that getting the projects in line with the state will also put them in a good position to receive federal infrastructure money as part of the stimulus package being proposed by the incoming Obama administration. Nesbitt had referred to the projected stimulus package several months prior to the meeting and made reference to it a number of times at past meetings, but said it looks like it will be final by February. He said the mechanism for distribution of funds isn’t complete but it looks like each agency will receive substantial funding to distribute. Nesbitt told the council that some of the projects, such as Phase 1 of the water line replacement and the Burdine No. 2 Bottom sewer repair project are already funded or in line for funding, but if federal funds are made available for them, the money can be re-directed for other things.

Nesbitt also suggested that the council authorize Mayor Dixon to establish a line of credit with funding agencies to go ahead and begin some of the work, particularly the Burdine No. 2 Bottom project. Nesbitt said the city can pay the money back as soon as funding is released and the interest will be counted as part of the funding package. He said the reason is to get ahead of the curve and move before material costs go up and to get ahead on placing bids and other more timeconsuming work.

Burdine resident Pauline Sexton brought a complaint to the council concerning an incident with a member of the Jenkins Police Department. Sexton said she has worked with Chief Jim Stephens and Sgt. Adam Swindall before and they have been exemplary, but said the incident with the other officer left her angry and embarrassed.

Sexton told the council she hit a rock wall with her car in a single-car accident on Jenkins Independent Schools property and the way the officer, who she said was in civilian clothing, spoke to her was rude and unwarranted. The council went into executive session to discuss the matter and after a lengthy session, they took no action other than to allow Chief Stephens to address the matter through “policy and procedure.” The name of the officer in question was never made public.

In his monthly report to the council, Chief Stephens said Jenkins Police officers answered 113 complaints in December and made 17 arrests. He said nine of the complaints were for domestic violence, which is a considerable increase over previous months. Stephens attributed the increase in domestic violence to the holiday season, family gatherings, and alcohol. Stephens also reported that Scott Ratliff of Burdine has been hired as a police officer and will attend the training academy in Richmond in January or February.

Among other business addressed this week:

• The council voted unanimously to pass the second reading of Ordinance 211 which establishes privacy and identity theft prevention measures for all city offices and communications including electronic communications. Rick Damron said the ordinance will allow the city to accept payment for utility and other bills on-line.

• The council also voted unanimously to pass the second reading of an ordinance to allow for a grace period in enforcing the city sticker law until January 31. After that date, the city will begin to vigorously enforce the city sticker laws.

• The council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with Equitable Resources to allow Equitable to bore underneath a city street in Burdine to run a 16 inch low pressure natural gas line under the street.

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