The Jenkins City Council has voted to lower taxes on real property by 10 cents per $100. The cut decreases taxes on real property from 44.99 cents per $100 of real property to 35 cents per $100, and was the result of discussions concerning an occupational tax the council passed in May.
During the discussions that led to the passage of the occupational tax, Mayor G.C. Kincer Jr. and several council members agreed that the 1-1/2 percent occupational tax would allow the city to lower property taxes which had been seen by some as an impediment to attracting business and new homeowners. The property tax reduction will cost the city approximately $17,000 annually in tax revenue.
The council had previously voted in August to lower tax rates on motor vehicles and watercraft by just over four cents per $100 dollars. Kincer and City Finance Officer Robin Kincer, who is not related to the mayor, both warned at the time that lowering the motor vehicle and watercraft rate as well as taxes on real property may offset the overall effect of the occupational tax. The decrease in the motor vehicle and watercraft tax rate will cost the city about $4,000 per year.
Kincer also agreed this week to establish protocols regarding conduct in council meetings to affect both council members and members of the public who appear before the council to speak. Kincer began the meeting by saying he hoped the meeting could go on without “the debacle we had last month,” to which Councilman Terry Braddock replied, “That’s not necessary.” Council member Rebecca Terrill- Amburgey said several recent incidences in which council members or citizens addressing the council have become angry or unruly have made meetings unpleasant and asked if the council has a code of conduct in place.
“I know we go by Roberts Rules of Order,” said Terrill-Amburgey. “Do we have a conduct rule we need to enforce? When we try to conduct business, we can’t conduct it when things go on that are disruptive. I’m not talking about freedom of speech but our language and conduct should be done correctly. Citizens too, I don’t feel comfortable with the aggressive language.”
Councilman Braddock, who has had a number of heated discussions with Mayor Kincer and city employees, said that he follows parliamentary procedure and asks for the floor before he makes a comment and said the council should be careful about suppressing the right to speak.
“Everyone has the right to speak,” said Councilman Robert Adams. “But it’s the way they speak.”
Councilman Rick Damron said most civic bodies have a time limit for guest commentary and City Attorney Tackett said there are a number of avenues the council could pursue. Tackett said the council could ask that complaints be submitted in writing before the meetings and added that it already has rules in place to regulate conduct in meetings.
“I’ll have something to maintain order,” said Mayor Kincer. “That’s my job.”
The council also voted unanimously at its September meeting to approve and ordinance allowing the Jenkins Fire Department to assess a fee to offset its expenses for responding to emergencies. The ordinance reads that “the Jenkins Fire Department hereby adopts billing for responses to and/ or recovery from minor and major emergencies and disasters requiring purchases to replace supplies, periodic and scheduled maintenance on apparatus, fuel purchases, rehabilitation supplies, repair and/ or replacement of protective gear and equipment required by the Jenkins Fire Department, OSHA, NFPA and/or other associated guidance.”
The ordinance was modified at the recommendation of City Attorney Randall Tackett, who told the council the language was ambiguous after City Manager Todd DePriest said that charges would not be passed on to individuals but only to insurance companies or persons who were responsible for the emergency. The original language read that the fire chief, his designee, or contracted billing company will submit a billing statement to a person, agency(s), or the insurance company(s) of the person(s) or agency(s) that services were rendered for the services and/or expenses actually provided and/or incurred.
“In reading the ordinance, it has wider language than we are used to hearing,” said Tackett. “It says they will bill to persons. It should say to persons responsible, insurance carriers, or someone who caused a fire.”
DePriest told the council the ordinance simply revisits an established policy and said that only insurance companies or responsible parties are actually billed and then only to the limit that homeowner, business, or automobile insurance policies stipulate. Tackett then asked that the language be changed to make it clear and the council voted to approve the changes which read as “the fire chief, his designee, or contracted billing company will submit a billing statement to agency(s), or the insurance company(s) of the responsible person(s) or agency(s) for the services and/or expenses actually provided and/or incurred.”
In other business, Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders reported that the city sold 189,000 gallons of water to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District through a master meter that was installed to allow the city to supply county customers as part of the Payne Gap Water Project. Sanders said the county has signed up 88 new customers as part of Phase I of the Payne Gap Project and Mayor Kincer said he receives several calls each week thanking the city for the water, but added that he always refers the callers to Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward because the water and sewer district and fiscal court are responsible for the water line extensions.
Sanders also told the council that water losses remain high and will continue to be high until the entire Jenkins Waterline Replacement Project is complete. Sanders and Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering both said the new lines cause increased pressure on old lines, which burst and cause more leaks, but added that when the system is finished, water losses will drop considerably. The city treated 15,550,000 gallons of water in September and sold 4,517,000, including the 189,000 gallons it sold to the county. The difference was 11,033,000 gallons for a potential loss of 71 percent. Of that loss, 3,941,000 gallons were accounted for and 7,092,000 are unaccounted, for an unaccounted loss of 46 percent.
Nesbitt reported that work on Phase III of the city waterline replacement is 30 percent complete and said the contractors have been careful not to create too much dust in residential areas around Lakeside. Nesbitt also said that five percent of every drawdown request from each contractor is retained to make certain work and clean up are finished. He added that a new computer monitored system called SCADA will allow water flow throughout city lines to be monitored from computers in city hall and the water plant and can be set to sound an alarm when leaks occur.
Nesbitt also announced that the opening of bids on Phase II of the Payne Gap Water project will be conducted at Jenkins City Hall on October 26 at 1 p.m. He said Phase II will extend lines through Bottom Fork and along US 119 and tie in with county lines at Mayking. He also told the council work on city sewer lines is ongoing, with flow meters and fiber optic lines being used to determine areas that need work. He said that at some point, a six-inch section of line was installed between two eight-inch lines and it causes backup and constriction and will have to be replaced. Easements are now in place for Phase II of the waterline replacement project as well.
City Administrator Todd DePriest reported that flow at the Burdine Sewer Plant is averaging 480,000 gallons per day, which is below the maximum, and said new equipment installed at the plant is working well. The city sent 105.5 tons of garbage to the landfill for a cost of $4,795 and recycled 655 blue bags, with Tuesday as the high day for blue bag collection at 321. The fire department had 13 runs and responded to four EMS calls. The police department reported answering 173 complaints, serving 18 warrants and making 21 arrests. Office Joshua Richardson was graduated from the Kentucky Police Academy and Officer Justin Hunsuker will enter the academy on October 7.
In other business:
• The council tabled a discussion of a franchise agreement to supply electricity to the city with American Electric Power and scheduled a work session for October 18 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
• Robert Adams said he has heard a number of complaints about tree limbs that interfere with power lines. Mayor Kincer said former Mayor Robert ‘Pud’ Schubert will make sure to address the matter when discussing the franchise agreement with AEP.
• Councilman Chuck Anderson told the council some bills are still out from the Jenkins Homecoming Festival and some accounts have not been finalized, but said he will have a complete financial report as soon as everything is closed out. He added that a Halloween Safe Night will be held on the night the Letcher County Fiscal Court designates for trick-or-treat and asked any groups or citizens who wish to give out candy at the city park to join in the Safe Night festivities. Anderson also announced that the charttopping Kentucky band Exile will be the headliner for next year’s festival.
• Festival committee member Ked Sanders announced that Chuck Anderson has been asked to continue in his role as chairman of the Homecoming Festival Committee and said Anderson has agreed.