Whitesburg KY

Jenkins mayor glad rest home being sold

Says state Attorney General’s Office did little to upkeep building it now controls

Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer charged this week that the Office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has been terribly negligent in its upkeep of Golden Years Rest Home at Jenkins, which the state shut down in October after seizing its operations almost exactly one year ago.

Kincer told the Jenkins City Council at its June meeting this week the Golden Years building will be auctioned at the end of this month. Kincer said he will be glad to see the building, which was built by Consolidation Coal Company in 1915, come under new ownership since the Attorney General’s Offi ce is content to allow the grass to grow into an eyesore that could also harbor snakes. Kincer said it takes three city workers all day to cut the grass and the city still has to bear the cost of the work.

“It’s irritating,” said Kincer. “We don’t own it and we collect no taxes on it, but we have to cut it. They haven’t been cooperative with us in anything.”

The Attorney General’s Office asked that the rest home be placed into receivership in June 2011 after criminal charges were filed against former Golden Years administrator James F. “Chum” Tackett and others.

In other business, the city council took the first step this week toward renewing Kentucky Power Company’s franchise to sell electrical power to customers who live inside the city limits.

At Monday’s meeting, the council conducted the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would permit Kentucky Power to own, maintain and operate its electric power lines throughout Jenkins. City Attorney Randall Tackett pointed out to the council that the existing franchise agreement expired in May and that Kentucky Power should have begun its effort to renew the franchise last October.

Tackett also took the opportunity to ask Mike Lasslo, manager of distribution and customer services for Kentucky Power’s Hazard District, why Jenkins loses power every time “it gets foggy.” Tackett admitted to Lasslo that he was exaggerating, but added that the city loses electrical power much too often, a statement to which several council members agreed.

Tackett also asked if the new franchise agreement will include a program to clear rights of way to prevent service interruptions, and Lasslo said a rate increase approved by the state Public Service Commission in the summer of 2010 required that $10 million be set aside to pay contractors to cut trees along the rights of way.

“How much of that applies to the city?” asked Tackett. “Clean-up on the rights of way doesn’t seem to apply.”

Lasslo told the council that tree cutters are supposed to clean up what they cut if it is on private property or in an area that is being kept clean and maintained. Lasslo said if people have complaints, they should call the company’s toll-free number at 1-800-572-1113.

Before Lasslo appeared at the meeting, Councilman Rick Damron, who is an electrical engineer, told the council that under state law cities such as Jenkins are allowed to operate their own municipal utilities. Damron said the City of Benham now operates its own utility to provide electrical power within the city. He said that by law, Kentucky Power is required to sell the city power at the wholesale rate and must sell existing infrastructure to the city at a fair price. The city would then be responsible for line upkeep and power outages within its operating area.

Damron said the arrangement has created three jobs in Benham. Mayor Kincer told the council he would look into it if members are interested. Kincer also reminded the council that the city has already entered into an arrangement to extend lines to provide natural gas to residential customers in the city.

The council also learned that schedule of work and road closings associated with Phase III of the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project will be advertised in The Mountain Eagle and other local media outlets soon. Matt Curtis of Nesbitt Engineering, project engineers for the city in the water line replacement project, said the work will include the areas of Lakeside and Wheaton Hollow.

Curtis said he would meet with the contractors this week and set up a schedule for work and road closings so people will know which areas to avoid. He said work will probably start between 7:30 and 8 a.m. daily and finish at about 5 p.m. Curtis added that the contractors will work with people to make sure they can get in and out of their neighborhoods. Phase III will also extend water lines to the Little Shepherd Amphitheater.

Curtis said work on Phase III should begin within two weeks, but that the starting date will depend on when materials ordered by the contractor arrive. He added that Phase II of the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project, which will start behind the old Wright’s Market building and run to Burdine, will cause less disruption to traffic since most of the work will take place on TECO right of way along the old railroad bed. Curtis told the council that Nesbitt Engineering is working to finalize loan arrangements for Phase II with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency.

Councilman Chuck Anderson questioned Curtis about some road damage which has been caused by contractors moving equipment on city streets in addition to that caused by tearing up streets to lay lines. City Manager Todd DePriest said most of the equipment will have road pads on its tracks to minimize damage, but Curtis said he will remind the contractors to make sure any damage to city streets is take care of.

Curtis also told the council that $3 million will be available from the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands for Phase II of the Payne Gap Water Project, which will extend lines to the Millstone connector at Mayking. The work will extend lines along U.S. 119 and through Bottom Fork. The City of Jenkins will administer the project and will turn the lines over to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District when it is complete. Testing and sanitization of lines that were laid as part of Phase I is ongoing and Curtis said customers in the Phase I area should receive water within two months.

In a related matter, the city has submitted a loan package to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority for the Burdine Sewer Line Rehabilitation Project and another to the Rural Development Agency.

Councilman Damron said he had been told the Kentucky Department of Highways intends to replace one or both bridges going into Camden. Curtis said Nesbitt Engineering had been contacted by the highway department to make certain where water and sewer lines run in relation to the bridge closest to Jenkins and said the bridge abutments are deteriorating. Damron said school buses can’t cross the bridge because of its poor condition, but said that for some reason Global Positional Satellite (GPS) units in tractor-trailers hauling material to the Gateway Industrial Park have been routing the large trucks through the narrow road in Joe’s Branch, which means they either have to cross that bridge or the other one below Number Three on Highway 805. He said several trucks have had the problem and that most turn around and go back but one had come out on the Number Three entrance and had gotten stuck when it tried to enter Highway 805. City Manager DePriest told the council he would contract the DOH and ask them to put a “No Thru Trucks” sign at the entrance to Joe’s Branch.

The council learned this week that the city produced 14,105,000 gallons of treated water in May and sold 4,950,000 gallons, including 1 million gallons to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District for use in flushing and testing lines for Phase I of the Payne Gap Water Project. The total difference for treated water and water sold was 9,155,000 gallons or 72 percent. Of that, 2,802,000 gallons were accounted for and 6,353,000 were unaccounted, for a 52 percent unaccounted loss. Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders told the council there is a major leak somewhere between the railroad tracks at Smoky Row and the tank at Gateway Industrial Park and said the terrain has made it difficult to find the leak. Sanders said city workers are clearing land above the line to help locate it.

City Manager DePriest told the council the Kentucky Department of Water (DOW) has decided the city is making adequate efforts to take care of the problem of having too much water flowing through the Burdine Sewer Plant because of water coming into sewer lines through breaks and said DOW has re-instated the permit for the plant to operate.

DePriest also told the council he is working with the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) to make sure water lines are extended past Jenkins High School before a project to install new sidewalks to the school begins. He said city workers are working on road stabilization in the city and putting down cold patch in potholes. A new brush mower is working well too.

DePriest also reported that the city sanitation department is losing more than $500 a month on hauling fees. He said he hopes to wait until after the Letcher County Fiscal Court decides how to handle the county’s garbage collection before addressing the issue further.

Police Chief T. Allen Bormes reported that Jenkins Police officers answered 88 complaints in May and made 20 arrests. They issued 11 citations for city violations and 14 state citations and responded to 10 accidents, three of which had injuries to those involved. Bormes said officers issued 17 warnings and went on five motorist assists.

Bormes also told the council Jenkins officers had conducted two safety checks and written 10 city sticker citations. He added that five people had come in and paid their fines for not having stickers out of the 10 cited and five others had come in and purchased stickers without being cited. Bormes said it is a good deal less expensive to go ahead and buy a sticker than to have to pay the fine along with buying one anyway.

Mayor Kincer said that some angry people had visited Jenkins City Hall to pay their fines, but added that he hopes those same people understand just how angry those who regularly buy their city stickers are at those who don’t pay.

Kincer announced the creation of a steering committee for the implementation of a five-year strategic plan. The planning will be financed by a $10,000 grant the city has received from the Center for Rural Development in Somerset and includes a new swimming pool for the city as well as a lake walk, a community center, three ball parks on property the city owns near the LKLP Center at Dairy Hollow, and a new highway entrance to the city.

Kincer appointed Kyle Walker of Dunham to serve on the steering committee for the five-year strategic plan and announced that a public hearing on the plan, with the Kentucky League of Cities, will be held either June 26 or June 28. Kincer said when the date is confirmed it will be announced and advertised.

The council scheduled its next monthly meeting for July 9.

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