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Jenkins may get help with lake

As the City of Jenkins addresses problems with water lines, a possible solution to problems that have plagued the Elkhorn Lake, the city’s main water source, may be in sight as well.

At the February meeting of the Jenkins City Council, Mayor G.C. Kincer told the council that Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) officials are interested in working with the city to obtain funding to dredge the lake and rid it of problem water lilies. While the lilies provide a beautiful view when they are in bloom, they also cause the water department a lot of problems and increase water treatment costs when they die and decompose. Kincer said KRADD Administrators Benny Hamilton and John Chester spoke with him at the last KRADD meeting and told him that while no funding is currently available for repairing the dam, there are ample funds to dredge the lake and take care of the water lily problem.

Kincer said the funding cannot move forward until the city can locate an alternative water source that can supply its needs for the several months it would take to drain the lake and complete the work. He said he has several options and has asked members of the Ratliff family, who he said have a great deal of knowledge about Pine Mountain, to work with geologist Wendell Holmes of TECO to locate an access point to an underground river that runs through the mountain.

Kincer also told the council he is looking at working with developers to build a subdivision in Jenkins. He said the property in question is not in the city limits at this time, but that annexation will not be a problem. He pointed out that while successful efforts to locate businesses at Gateway Industrial Park have brought new jobs to the county, Jenkins is not well placed to benefit from the influx of new workers and needs to have affordable housing available. He said the houses will be moderately priced and the subdivision will be a private enterprise that will benefit the city by adding to the tax base.

Kincer also told the council that Pike County businessman Greg Johnson is interested in developing a shopping center along US 23 that will have a grocery store, restaurants, and a hotel. Kincer said other interests in Lexington are also interested in developing property along US 23 for commercial purposes. He added that he has been in conversations with Ron Kane, a representative of the federal government who is involved with setting up loans from stimulus funds, and that Kane said money is available for business development.

“People want to be a part of change and growth,” said Kincer. “We have the land and we have ways to help businesses. The ultimate (development) direction for Jenkins is along US 23, but we will attend to the downtown, too.”

The city moved one step closer to a new city hall. The council heard the first reading of Ordinance 224, also called the General Obligation Ordinance, which allows the city to enter into a bond/lease arrangement with the Kentucky League of Cities to finance the $127,000 purchase price of the Tackett property in downtown Jenkins to use as a new city hall. The property is the former site of the Jenkins School Board office and central office and was used as an office annex by Beth Elkhorn as well.

The lease contains language similar to that of the lease arrangement recently passed by the Letcher County Fiscal Court calling for a tax to be levied in the event the city cannot meet its obligation to make the payments on the lease. As with the county lease, the Kentucky League of Cities will purchase the building through a bonding arrangement and when the lease is paid off, the ownership of the property will revert to the city. City Attorney Randall Tackett read the ordinance and explained that the tax clause, which is common in bond/lease arrangements, is to protect the lender and to allow the city to borrow at a low interest rate of 4.52 percent. Because this was a first reading, no action was necessary.

The council also voted unanimously to approve Ordinance 223, which states that pain clinics will be treated as an unlawful public nuisance, the city can prevent distribution of pain medication except by local hospitals or businesses associated with them, and that any business which prescribes and distributes pain medication can only do so in association with an existing local hospital. Violators will be fined $5,000 for each day in operation. The ordinance is aimed at businesses which primarily exist to distribute pain medication, provide few other medical services, and receive the bulk of their payment in cash. The ordinance will be published in its entirety in The Mountain Eagle before it becomes law.

Paul Nesbitt, of Nesbitt Engineering, who works with the city on water and sewer projects, told the council that Phase I of the Waterline Replacement Project is now 50 percent complete. Nesbitt said the contractors have been doing a good job, but that the weather and field conditions may require an extension in the contract period. He added that as the construction continues, more leaking pipes and pipes that essentially run to nowhere but still carry treated water are being eliminated.

Nesbitt said that easements are being gathered for Phase II of the Waterline Replacement Project and his company is seeking funding for Phase III. He said that the success of Phase I and the general progressive direction the city has taken in addressing the water situation has created a very favorable climate with funders and that in many cases, funding agencies are contacting him and asking about funding work in Jenkins.

Plans for the Payne Gap Water Project have been approved by the Kentucky Division of Water and Nesbitt said work is progressing on obtaining easements and locating a tank site. Council member Rick Damron questioned the necessity of another water tank, but Nesbitt said it was for the hydraulics, to allow water to flow across high points without pumps. The city is administering the project to expedite construction and the entire project will be turned over to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District and is being funded by Abandoned Mine Lands. The City of Jenkins will sell water to the county customers from a master meter located near the tank.

Nesbitt also told the council that work on the city’s wastewater treatment plant is stalled while waiting for several pumps and other equipment, but added that when the equipment is installed and the work is complete, plant workers will be able to use “gray water,” water with the sewage removed but which has not been treated, to wash down drying beds and other things to save on the amount of treated water used at the plant.

In his report, City Administrator Todd DePriest said that extreme weather had caused water losses to go up for January because of frozen pipes and water meters. DePriest said the city produced 15,281,000 gallons of treated water and sold 4,706,000 for a 69 percent water loss. He said he is working with Mark Fibus of Nesbitt Engineering to improve the city water plant, including its appearance. He said it creates a more favorable impression with funders when they see the plant clean and rust free.

DePriest told the council that the weather and problems keeping city streets clear have put quite a dent in the city’s accounts. He said that expenditures on salt, gravel, and overtime for city workers have exceeded $6,000 for the year and added that by mixing gravel with salt, the city has saved about 50 percent on that cost as well as reducing damage to roads from corrosive road salt. Councilman Robert Adams asked DePriest to see about changing the mixture to add more salt on some of the very steep hills inside the city.

DePriest also reported that city police officers answered 138 complaints in January and made nine arrests, of which six were drug related. He told the council that Jenkins will participate with Fleming-Neon in a grant to upgrade city police and fire department radios to digital. DePriest said the upgrade will be mandatory in 2012. The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department had 10 responses in January, four for fires and two for public service. City sticker sales stand at 1,017. Councilman Damron asked about ambulance service, but DePriest said that while discussions of extending ambulance service to Jenkins are ongoing, nothing is solid yet.

In other business addressed by the council:

• The council voted to charge any party not associated with the city government a fee of $10 plus 10 cents per word after the first 20 letters to use the new city sign. Several council members asked about possible exemptions but the council decided that the policy should stand, due as much as anything to the number of exemptions that were proposed.

• Jenkins resident Mike Chavis asked that a tree near his home be removed under provisions in the city’s Nuisance Ordinance. Chavis said the tree has been undercut by high water in Elkhorn Creek and poses a threat to his home. He said he would pay half the cost of removing it, which was estimated at $1,200 (total) by a tree-cutting expert contacted by the city.

• Council member Rebecca Terrill- Amburgey asked Mayor Kincer to help provide an incentive for residents to clean up garbage around their property which has accumulated in the snow and cold weather. She said when it thaws it will not only look terrible and be unsanitary, it will hurt the city in its efforts to attract business and tourists. Terrill-Amburgey suggested issuing citations for garbage and for littering as a last resort.

• City Administrator Todd DePriest was appointed as the mayor’s designated representative to KRADD, and Mason Tackett was appointed PRIDE coordinator.

• Representatives of the Kentucky League of Cities spoke to the council and invited the members to several meetings on topics of interest to smaller cities.

• Mayor Kincer appointed Pastor Benny McCall of the Burdine Freewill Baptist Church as city pastor.

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