At a special called meeting Monday evening, the Jenkins City Council learned that it has a deficit of more than $61,000 for the sanitation department in the coming 2015-2016 budget.
After City Attorney Randall Tackett conducted the first reading of the projected $2,122,407 budget, Depriest told the council that he and City Manager Benny McCall are working on a solution to the deficit that will have to include raising sanitation rates. However, Depriest said he hopes to come up with an equitable solution rather than just making an across-the-board raise that will affect everyone at the same rate.
Depriest explained that he meant that a single individual who produces a small amount of solid waste shouldn’t have to see as much of an increase as a large household or a business that produces many more bags of garbage. He also said the increase will include commercial customers as well. Depriest said the plan for the increase will be ready for the council by the second reading at the August meeting. Council Member Rebecca Amburgey suggested that after balancing the sanitation budget, the council should consider figuring in a small annual increase in sanitation fees rather than waiting several years and making a larger increase.
Depriest also announced that a call center that is planning to occupy the old National Mine Service building in Jenkins will hold a job fair at the Jenkins Homecoming Festival and that more information can be had by e-mailing it at email@example.com.
In other business, McCall proposed that the city raise the per employee contribution for the deductible from $100 to $500 to meet increases in the cost of the city’s employee insurance plan. McCall said that at present the city pays $1,900 of the $2,000 deductible for health care costs for each employee, but McCall said that with increases in insurance costs, that is no longer sustainable. He said that as an employee himself, he has felt blessed that the city has borne that much of the cost, but added that a $500 deducible for a plan that pays 100 percent of treatment costs after the deductible is met is still very much a bargain for city employees.
Depriest said he would like to speak with city employees to inform them of the plan and get their feedback before finalizing the changes and McCall said he would meet with the city employees to explain the situation to them. Depriest said that because the city has lost nine employees due to attrition, costs have stayed bearable but with increases looming, there will need to be changes. The deadline for the insurance company is June 5 and the council may need to have a special meeting before that date to make the decision.
In the Mayor’s Report, Depriest said that there would be a meeting on May 19 to look at the response to questionnaires that posed questions about what visitors to Jenkins wanted to see as part of the Devil John Wright Moonshine Trail. He said that among the common responses were questions about restaurants and if there would be adequate information on the trail. Depriest also said that the Jenkins Police Department answered 80 complaints last month and worked two serious accidents. They made six arrests, including four drug-related arrests. The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department made 35 runs. Depriest said the department regrets losing Fireman John Barnette, who is leaving to join the U.S. Army this summer.
In other city business:
• The council voted to accept Nesbitt Engineering’s recommendation for hiring the low bidders as the contractors for the Dunham and Burdine water projects.
• The council heard the first reading of an ordinance that will return the monthly council meetings to Monday at 7 p.m. Council members had voted at the last regular meeting to make the change and had mistakenly believed that the vote would be enough to seal the change. However, Mayor Depriest later learned that a change of meeting date will require an ordinance. The second reading will be held at the next council meeting,
• The council heard the first reading of an ordinance that will allow the city to advertise the franchise for communications, telephone and Internet service.