The Jenkins City Council has a message for pain clinics: Stay out of our town.
At its January meeting this week, the council heard the first reading of an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of pain clinics in Jenkins. The ordinance, read by City Attorney Randall Tackett, says pain clinics will be treated as unlawful public nuisances, and that pain medications can be prescribed only by doctors who work in association with a local hospital. Violators would be fined $5,000 for each day in operation.
The ordinance is aimed at businesses that exist primarily to distribute pain medication and receive the bulk of their payment in cash. The required second reading of the ordinance will take place at the next council meeting and will then become law after it is published in The Mountain Eagle.
Newly elected Mayor G.C. Kincer told the council he had become concerned over the possibility of a pain clinic attempting to open in Jenkins and decided to take action after speaking with District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming about a similar ordinance in Knott County. Fleming represents Jenkins on the Letcher County Fiscal Court. Both Kincer and Tackett said they recognize there are legitimate needs that can be addressed by pain clinics such as the one operated by the University of Kentucky Medical Center, but stressed that the problems that “pill mills” create include an increase in criminal activity and DUI arrests.
Fleming said he also recognizes there are legitimate concerns over pain relief, but does not believe the citizens of Jenkins would be well served by having a “pill mill” locate in town.
In other business, Kincer announced the appointment of Jenkins resident Roger Proffit as Mayor Pro Tem and asked the council to approve the appointment of former councilman Todd DePriest as City Administrator. Kincer said Proffi t’s position is voluntary in nature and did not require the council’s approval, but added that it would save the city time and money by adding Proffit’s expertise in planning and engineering to the city.
Kincer told the council he has long been impressed with DePriest’s dedication to the city in his service as a councilman and a member of the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department. DePriest will oversee city functions outside City Hall and interact with the police department, fire department and the various other departments that make up the city’s work force.
Finance Officer Robin Kincer, who is not related to the mayor and was employed by the city prior to his election, told the council that DePriest’s salary will be paid from Local Government Economic Assistance funds and will add no burden to taxpayers. She said LGEA funds are available for the purpose and the city has ample funding on hand. Kincer added that in addition to saving the city money through his managerial abilities, DePriest would deliver all the reports from the city departments, freeing the council from paying overtime to department heads who previously had to attend meetings to give their reports.
“He is worth his weight in gold,” said Mayor Kincer. “He will be an asset to every department. He will do all the things that have to do with outside (City Hall) and we will use his talents to better the city.”
DePriest’s former seat on the council is now occupied by Robert Adams, who was elected after DePriest ran for mayor.
The council also spent considerable time discussing charges by Councilman Terry Braddock water funds were being misspent.
Kincer told the council he wanted to address the matter of old business in hopes of putting it to rest. Kincer said he had invited Lexington Accountant Rodney Welch to attend the meeting to discuss accusations of financial improprieties made by Braddock and said he would give Braddock the opportunity to be heard as well. Welch is a former Jenkins resident and has conducted city audits for a number of years.
Kincer said the matter, which dates back more than two years and involves numerous accusations of slush funds and billing improprieties with water bills, had gone on for much too long and that it had caused hard feelings on the council as well as considerable embarrassment to the city. Kincer said he would give Braddock the opportunity to present whatever evidence he had and that he had asked Welch to attend the meeting to explain the auditing procedures to Braddock.
“I would like to settle this,” said Kincer. “This has caused stress and embarrassment and I want to give him (Braddock) the opportunity to present himself. His charges are severe and disturbing to the people of the city. If he has proof of wrongdoing, I want to give him this opportunity.”
Kincer asked Braddock to step up to the podium, but Braddock declined, saying he had papers arranged at his council seat. He then said that he had seen dozens of instances in the past two and a half years where individual water bills had been wrongly increased. Braddock said he has spoken to Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II about the matter and had sent letters to the offices of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway as well.
Braddock presented copies of financial reports dating back to 2006 in which he showed that water deposits exceeded what has been taken in previously. Welch answered that all deposits made in the water fund might not represent revenue. Braddock continued to press the issue of deposits that exceeded previous income, saying that in 2008, $94,000 was deposited in the water fund and said people had told them it had come from overbilling them.
Braddock said he had been “shouted down” in meetings when he tried to bring the matter up and had been forced to write letters to the editor to get his side of the story into the newspaper. Welch replied that deposits had been greater than the income for water, but said the difference had come through grants. Braddock said there was no evidence of grant income on the deposits and Welch attempted to explain that the water account was different from the water fund. At that point, Braddock said he had witnesses who said Welch had spoken with Ked Sanders, who chairs the city Utility Commission, before he delivered the audit in December and Welch answered that Sanders had spoken to him about a matter with the Blighted and Deteriorated Property Committee.
Braddock then said he had seen documents showing that people had water leaks and had to pay for 10,000 gallons of water in a given month, even though they lived alone. He said Kincer had agreed to allow him to look at all the water receipts and said several times that once he had examined the receipts he would have the necessary information to make his case.
“ It’s hard to believe somebody would do something like this,” said Braddock. “Our republic is under a great deal of stress. I want to make it strong from the bottom.”
Kincer then asked Welch to take the floor, saying he wasn’t certain the council had seen a complete picture of the allegations. Welch referred to a set of documents he had presented to the council at the December meeting. He said the report the council gets is based on deposits and reminded the council he had suggested in his notes on the audit he presented at that meeting to give a more detailed report in the future and told Braddock he was confusing revenue (bills paid by customers) with total water deposits, which include grants and loans.
“You are taking deposits and calling it revenue,” said Welch.
Braddock replied that grants were kept in separate accounts, but Welch pointed to $1.5 million in grants and said that the funds represent the larger picture on grants and that while money is frequently transferred back and forth between accounts, it is not transferred between funds.
“All I need is to look at the water receipts,” replied Braddock.
“You should,” said Welch. “You will find that nobody is adding anything to water readings. I made suggestions to expand the reports so you will have more to go on. The monthly reports show everything, they just need a breakdown to where you can differentiate between bills and transfers. I strongly suggest you look at the water bills so you can satisfy yourself. But you (the council) need more detailed reports.”
Mayor Kincer then asked Welch if he had seen anything from Braddock that would make him want to change the audit and Welch replied, “Heaven, no.”
Councilman Rick Damron added that each water meter has an ongoing mechanical reading that never resets and that anyone can read that by opening the meter and keeping a monthly tabulation by deducting the last month’s amount from the total. He said he has done that himself and found the city to be generally right in its billing and that if an error occurred, it usually favored the customer. Welch agreed, saying it is right 99 percent of the time.
Kincer thanked Welch for making the trip from Lexington in bad weather and for his patience. He then told Braddock he wanted him to take time to carefully examine the water bills and said he wanted the matter to be finalized.
“If you find you are incorrect, there are apologies I would like to see you make,” said Kincer.
“There are always transfers between accounts, just not funds,” said Welch. “We tried to cut down on accounts and streamline your banking. The audit only shows transfers between funds.”
Robin Kincer then said that sometimes, grant money comes in before a separate account has been established and has to be deposited into an existing account until an account is set up so some grant money has gone through accounts, but that was a temporary fix and that money reflected in reports for accounts comes from revenue.
“ I hope to put this to bed,” said Kincer. “This isn’t something we need to linger on. I want Terry to be satisfi ed and I want to make the citizens feel good about the city.”
In the city’s departmental reports, Todd DePriest said the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department had made 20 runs in December, with one structure fire and one grease fire. The fire department also worked to help with water leaks in the subfreezing temperatures. The Jenkins Police Department answered 132 calls. DePriest also said city water workers will place small blue flags near water meters so they can be identified in deep snow. The city manufactured 14,601,000 gallons of treated water in December and sold 5,607,000 gallons.
DePriest suggested water customers place a small amount of insulation at the bottom of water meters to keep them from freezing, but added that meters are designed to freeze at the bottom to keep from damaging more expensive equipment in the top part of the meter. Mayor Kincer added that as the water line replacement continues, he hopes to see the amount of water manufactured and the amount sold get much closer and hopes to see water losses of no more than five percent when the entire project is complete.
In other council business:
• No bids were submitted for the Phillips property on Willow Street and City Attorney Tackett said the mayor can negotiate with potential buyers.
• Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering said that Phase I of the Water Line Replacement Project is about 45 percent complete and that the contractors have found and turned off a number of lines that no one had known existed and carried treated water to nowhere. He said Phase II will be ready to start as soon as Phase I is complete and the Phase III design is ongoing. Nesbitt said the city’s success with the water projects has created a good deal of positive feeling with funders.
• In response to a request from Letcher County Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Miles, the council established a line of succession for emergencies in the event Mayor Kincer is incapacitated or unavailable to make decisions. The line of succession is 1) Mayor Pro Tem Roger Proffit, 2) City Administrator Todd DePriest, 3) Fire Chief Rick Corbett, 4) Police Chief Adam Swindall.
• The council heard a complaint concerning Intermountain Cable taking an inordinate amount of time to establish service. Council members also learned that in violation of an agreement the cable company made with the city to allow its franchise to be modified, it has also closed its service center and moved servicemen to another location.
Mayor Kincer said he would invite representatives of the company to the next meeting. City Attorney Tackett suggested documenting each incidence concerning the cable company with the franchise renewal in mind. Tackett said the agreement is up in two years.