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Jenkins residents urged to fight rate hike

Jenkins Mayor Charles Dixon says his biggest disappointment as mayor has been the lack of funds necessary to dredge Elkhorn Lake and repair the dam that holds it, which was built by Consolidation Coal Company as the water supply for the city in 1916. Dixon said he thought funding to repair the dam and dredge the lake was imminent either from PRIDE or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but said both sources dried up unexpectedly and without explanation.

In a pre-meeting discussion with The Mountain Eagle,
Dixon said he had written to Fifth District U.S. Congressman Harold ‘Hal’ Rogers’s office, to Kentucky’s U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, and to “everybody but the president” seeking help. He said City Clerk Sherry Puckett had sent approximately 50 letters to governmental and funding agencies seeking money to repair the dam and dredge the lake and he is hoping for results, which so far have not been forthcoming. Copies of the letter were sent to state government officials and a number of interested residents and former residents of Jenkins.

In the letter to Rogers’s Somerset office, Dixon told Bob Mitchell that the lake is an ongoing problem that has plagued a generation of mayors but that the leaks in the dam have gotten worse and represent a serious threat to the city. Dixon told The
that while he does not see the dam as an imminent threat, it does represent a threat to the lives of several hundred people who live in the flood path if it were to break.

“I don’t think the dam is going to break,” said Dixon. “But if it did, it would be a disaster.”

Dixon said the lake and dam were just part of an overall water situation that has cost the city a great deal of money and caused the loss of millions of gallons of treated water. A number of water and sewer projects are scheduled to begin construction or go to bid within the next two or three months, but he said that relief on the lake problems simply hasn’t materialized. Dixon said the Army Corps office told him it thought it could get the money to dredge the lake and to repair the dam while the dredging was going on, but “it went away.” Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, which works with the city on water and sewer projects, reported at Monday’s meeting that his office is still seeking funding for the project.

In other business, the council heard more bad news on water losses from Water Superintendent Bo Hopkins. Hopkins reported an unaccounted for loss of treated water of 8,700,000 gallons, or 52 percent of all water produced by the city in December. In all, 16,890,000 gallons were produced and 4,243,000 were sold. Hopkins accounted for another 3,947,000 gallons, including 1,860,000 gallons lost to leaks, but said until new lines are run throughout the city, high losses will continue. He told the council that city workers had recently discovered and terminated an active line in Marshalls Branch which carried water nowhere and was full of holes. Hopkins said it is unknown how many such lines exist but that a number of lines from 1912 are still “hot,” carrying water.

The Utilities Commission made several recommendations in its report to the council, including setting a minimum usage charge for Mountain Breeze Apartments of 1,000 gallons. Commission Chairman Ked Sanders said new meters will soon be installed at Mountain Breeze and usage will be better calculated. Sanders also recommended making the situation brought to the council’s attention by Roger Johnson more equitable, but said it would mean adding as much as 25 cents to basic water rates for the first 1,000 gallons for city water customers.

Johnson, who lives on East Jenkins Hill in Burdine, has water service but the city is unable to run sewer lines to his residence. In the newly adopted rate structure, he would be paying more than customers with both water and sewer service. Sanders told the council that arrangement is unfair and inequitable and should be corrected for Johnson and the other approximately 150 water-only customers.

Council member Rebecca Terrill said while she agrees with Sanders that Johnson’s situation should be corrected, at least some of the people who have water-only service had the option to have sewer service and declined. Terrill said these people should pay more than innocent customers like Johnson who don’t have access to sewer service, especially if they are running straight pipes. The council asked for a list of those customers who have water-only service to see how many actually have access to sewer service as well. Paul Nesbitt told Mayor Dixon if he will supply a list of the names and addresses of the customers, his company can determine if sewer is available from its maps and report at the February meeting.

In the Engineering Report, Paul Nesbitt told the council that the Number Two Bottom Sewer Rehab Project is in the process of finalizing easements while awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency. Nesbitt said he expects the project, which has already been bid, to begin soon. Nesbitt said the Camden Road Waterline Project will receive bids on Jan. 13, his office is working on Phase I of the city Waterline Improvement (replacement) Project RD checklist and responding to easement concerns, and Phase Two will be submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water in February. The design for Phase Two is 75 percent complete.

Nesbitt also told the council the design for the Payne Gap/Kona Water Project is underway after Nesbitt Engineering received plans from Bell Engineering on Dec. 3. He said he expects to submit them to the DOW in late February or early March. Abandoned Mine Lands will pay for the project and Nesbitt said he has been told the funds will be available in July. He also told the council that design plans for improvements to the Jenkins Wastewater Plant will be ready to go the DOW soon.

In the Mayor’s Report, Dixon listed a number of accomplishments the council has made in the past year. He listed 35 accomplishments, including extending water lines to Cane Branch and McPeeks Branch, removing a number of blighted and deteriorated houses, upgrading police department policies and procedures, and the addition of the Gales Park at Dunham. Funding for the park came through the fiscal court, which Dixon credited Magistrate Wayne Fleming for obtaining, and praised Fleming’s hard work to develop the park and help the city in other ways as well. Dixon also listed water and sewer line improvements and a number of other projects including the Homecoming Days Festival.

In his “wish list” for future improvements, Dixon listed further upgrades to water and sewer lines, continued removal of blighted property, more economic development, and a host of other possible projects. Dixon also expressed his disappointment at citizens’ complaints about city workers, saying that the workers are understaffed and work long and hard to take care of the city.

Fleming thanked the council and citizens of Jenkins for allowing him to serve the Fifth District and said he looks forward to working with them in the future. He told the council that a proposed 35 percent rate increase by Kentucky Power will be too much for many of the citizens of Jenkins to bear and asked that they contact elected officials and the Kentucky Public Service Commission to protest the hike and ask the PSC to deny Kentucky Power’s request. He said that people on fixed incomes will be hit particularly hard by the exorbitant rate increase and urged everyone to contact the PSC. The PSC website is http:// www.psc.ky.gov/ and its address is Kentucky Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 615, 211 Sower Boulevard, Frankfort, KY 40602-0615. The e-mail address is psc.consumer.inquiry@ky.gov.

David Richardson, manager of the Wastewater Plant, reported that during the recent power outage resulting from heavy snows, the sewer plant was without power for about 50 hours. He said the plant’s backup generator has a 500-gallon tank and when it ran dry, they couldn’t get fuel because the fuel service they use doesn’t deliver on weekends. Richardson recommended getting two 55- gallon drums to store back-up diesel fuel. He said the extra fuel would give them an extra 11 hours of run time and work crews could take them to be filled up at any time.

In the Police Report, Acting Chief Adam Swindall reported that officers responded to 77 complaints, including two for domestic violence and nine vehicle collisions. Ten motorists needing assistance were helped and three citations were issued along with eight warnings, and two warrants were served. Swindall praised city workers for their long hours in cold weather. He also praised Judge/Executive Jim Ward and the Letcher County Fiscal Court for their aid to the city during the power outage and snow emergency.

In other Council business:

• In the December Road, Water, and Sewage Department supervisor’s report, a total of 1,116 blue bags or recyclables were collected, making an annual total of 11,759 blue bags, for which Dixon said the city did not have to pay tipping fees at the landfill. Fourteen water leaks were fixed and snow and ice were removed from city streets 11 times in December. Seventy-five tons of road salt were used. City workers fixed 174 water line breaks or leaks in 2009.

• The David A. Zegeer Coal and Railroad Museum presented its 2008 Financial Summary with a balance of $8,008.16, including $6,735 revenue against $6,050.71 expenses.

• Fire Chief Rick Corbett reported 45 runs for December including 31 in one three-day period. Corbett praised the volunteer firemen who he said stayed on duty 24 hours a day during the emergency and cut trees, inspected downed power lines, and distributed water to citizens. He said they also responded to three structure fires.

• The Homecoming Festival Committee submitted its financial report to the council. Rebecca Terrill reported a balance of $11,404.28 for the start of 2010 after expenses from the Christmas Parade were taken out. The next festival committee meeting will be in City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m.

• Rebecca Terrill and Chuck Anderson presented a re-organization plan for business licenses based on the one in use in Pikeville. Professional licenses will go up to $100 from the current $75 and technical licenses will go up to $50 from the current $30. They gave the plan to City Attorney Randall Tackett for his approval.

• Mayor Dixon asked that all sanitation customers put their trash in garbage bags. He said city workers do not have the time to bag garbage for customers who leave it in cans.

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