Whitesburg KY

Jenkins residents to see higher water bills

The residents of Jenkins will see a water rate hike in the near future, following action taken by the Jenkins City Council at its November meeting. Mayor Charles Dixon told the council the rate hike was tied to a $500,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency and if the council did not approve the rate adjustment, the loan would be withdrawn.

Matt Curtis, of Nesbitt Engineering, told the council the rate hike is considered necessary by RDA in order to service the loan, which is a large part of the $1.5 million funding package for Phase I of the critical water line upgrade to replace aging city water lines. Some of the lines have been in use since 1912, when the city was built by Consolidation Coal Company as a model town. Curtis said the rate hike is the prime condition in a “Letter of Conditions” the city received from RDA and that there would be no loan without the accompanying rate hikes.

“If the city doesn’t comply, it voids the (loan) obligation of RDA,” said Curtis.

Mayor Dixon asked the council to authorize him to send a “Letter of Interest” to RDA in which the council’s agreement to the conditions would be included. He said the rate increase is in accordance with the recommendations of Rural Development and will be enacted by ordinance at a later date. The council voted five to one to approve the request with Terry Braddock casting the lone no vote. The council also voted unanimously to approve an environmental mitigation letter to RDA as well as part of the loan package.

The city averages losing about 65 percent of the treated water it produces, and most of the losses come from leaks. Dixon used the example of a pipeline that ruptured last week directly in front of the offices of the Jenkins Board of Education which he said created a “geyser” that flooded Main Street until city crews were able to shut off the water. Water Department Superintendent Bo Hopkins told the council the break occurred in a relatively new 10-inch steel line and split the pipe for nearly eight feet along its side.

Hopkins cited the water report for October, which he said showed an improvement in water losses when the city lost 5,685,000 gallons for unaccounted reasons along with another 2,350,000 which were attributed to leaks. The city produced a total of 15,978,000 gallons and sold 5,175,000, leaving a difference of 10,803,000. Almost three million gallons were used for a variety of purposes including at the water and wastewater treatment plant. Losses to known leaks and unaccounted for losses accounted for over 50 percent of treated water produced by the city in October.

In other business, 94th District State Rep. Leslie Combs and 29th District State Senator Johnny Ray Turner visited the meeting after attending another meeting with Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming and representatives of the Little Shepherd Amphitheater to discuss the possibility of acquiring the old Pine Mountain Railroad Tunnel and the Raven Rock property for tourism purposes.

Combs told the council that she and Turner are committed to working with the city and county to improve conditions and said the City of Jenkins has a lot of problems in common with other cities in Kentucky. She said rough financial times are a good time for communities to work together and sometimes hard times offer answers that are otherwise not available.

“This is a good time to come together and work together,” said Combs. “Tough times can create unique opportunities and Senator Turner and I are committed to you. This could be an exciting time. We’ve had a lot happen but we will work together to get some things going.”

Turner, a former basketball coach at Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, told the council that the state’s financial difficulties have reinforced the importance of teamwork that he always preached to his players.

“The need for teamwork doesn’t change,” said Turner.

Councilman Braddock asked Turner about the possibility of redesignating the Gateway Industrial Park to include commercial use. Braddock said someone had been interested in putting a motel there but the park is designated specifically for industrial use. Braddock called the industrial park a failure and said the city needs to get the land in use and on the tax rolls. Turner said he was not aware of the guidelines for land use in the industrial park but Mayor Dixon said park use is limited as part of a four-county commitment that is administered by the Industrial Authority. However Braddock said the city has ultimate control of the land.

“We’re the governing body (for the industrial park),” said Braddock.

Braddock told the council in an earlier statement that he would like to have seen the approximately $70,000 in the road fund used for paving city streets and cleaning out ditches. However, Dixon said that all the fees from roadwork in the city for the past summer’s “paving season” are not in yet and that winter work will have to be paid for as well.

Bids for sewer line repairs at Number Two Bottom in Burdine came in October 10 and Matt Curtis told the council that H2O Construction of Pikeville brought in the low bid of $183,750. Curtis said the contracting company has done a good deal of work for the city and in the county in the past and it has been very satisfactory. The council voted unanimously to accept the low bid. Curtis said that pending the actual finalization of a contract with H2O and approval of the funders, he expects construction to begin within 60 days.

Curtis also told the council that the USDA loan to the city for Phase I of the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project was part of the President’s stimulus package and the Buy American Clause will be in effect for the project. He added that the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority has approved the city’s request to withdraw money from its sewage treatment plant maintenance fund to make badly needed repairs to the plant, but the funds will have to be replaced. When the loan is repaid, the maintenance fund will revert to the city.

Mayor Dixon told the council he is ready to submit a list of projects for the upcoming General Assembly session and said he recently met with officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and discussed problems caused by recent flooding. Dixon said FEMA officials told him he could include problems with Jenkins Lake and the dam in his request as well. He also said he had spoken with Tony Wilder of the Kentucky Department of Local Government about the need for dredging the lake and repairs of the dam.

In the Mayor’s Report, Dixon said absentee ownership, a problem that has long plagued eastern Kentucky, is a major contributing factor to the city’s blighted and deteriorated housing situation. Dixon said that since absentee owners are often unwilling to do anything to better the situation, his recommendation to the council is that a zoning ordinance be enacted. Dixon said he was ashamed of the condition of several areas of the city due to abandoned property during a recent visit by the Lexington Chamber of Commerce.

Dixon also said city tax bills are now due and there is a two percent discount if they are paid in November. He said the city will take aggressive action on delinquent taxes. City stickers are also on sale in November, and after January 30 an additional charge of $20 will be made for those without city stickers.

The council voted to set the due date for occupational licenses at January 1 with a 30-day grace period to be due January 30. Dixon said that the city must have the funds from occupational licenses to prevent future layoffs of city employees. Dixon lauded the hard work of the city outside crew in repairing the major leak downtown last week and said they worked 24 hours straight getting the eightfoot section of pipe replaced so city residents could get their water back on.

In other council business:

• The council voted to approve the request of Tracy Goff, vice chairman of the Jenkins Independent Schools Board of Education, to allow various athletic teams to use the Head Start building for practice. Goff said the athletic director at Jenkins High School can work out details of use with Head Start and the board will approve paying for part of the utilities if it is based on usage.

• The council voted to approve the purchase and installation of two new master meters for Mountain Breeze Apartments. Bo Hopkins told the council the old meters were installed when the apartments were built and are not at all accurate.

• Police Chief Jim Stephens reported that the department answered 103 complaints in October, wrote 35 citations and made 25 arrests. Four arrests were drug related, four were for DUI, one for domestic violence, and six came from warrants. He said the department gave safety talks for Halloween to elementary school and Head Start students and assisted the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department in safety presentations for Fire Prevention Month. Officers handed out Halloween candy to Head Start students as well. Stephens praised Corporal Anthony Maggard and Officer Scott Ratliff for their help during the Halloween Safe Night in the City Park. He said Maggard dressed as Batman and helped pass out candy and Ratliff assisted sponsors in any way possible, and got completely soaked in the process. Sgt. Adam Swindall attended in-service training sessions at Bowling Green.

• The Supervisors’ Report noted that the blue bag (recycling) collection for October in Jenkins was the lowest of the year at 661. Mayor Dixon emphasized the necessity of recycling in order to keep garbage rates low. Dixon also said that since January 1, city workers have repaired 153 water leaks.

• The Homecoming Festival Committee will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. at City Hall and will discuss the upcoming Christmas Parade. The parade will be held either the first or second Saturday in December.

• The council voted unanimously to purchase a new garbage truck from Municipal Equipment for $93,362. The purchase was recommended by a committee composed of council members Todd DePriest and Rick Damron, who examined all the bids and options. The truck is a 2010 International with a 13-cubic yard packer.

• The council went into executive session to discuss a personnel issue but no action was taken.

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