Whitesburg KY

Mayor tells councilman: Stop the grandstanding

The November meeting of the Jenkins City Council opened with an admonition from Mayor Charles Dixon directed to Councilman Terry Braddock to the effect that Dixon would tolerate no interruptions or “grandstanding” in the next two meetings that will mark the end of his term. Dixon did not run for re-election and had only planned to serve for a single term. The relationship between Dixon and Braddock has been tenuous and Braddock has interrupted Dixon a number of times during meetings to bring attention to nonagenda matters, particularly water cost issues.

“No grandstanding tonight, Terry,” said Dixon. “For the last three years, I’ve been accused along with the city workers. I’ll put my honesty and theirs up against anyone, including you Terry. No more grandstanding for the next two meetings.”

Braddock then presented a copy of a document he had prepared for The
Mountain Eagle
reporter in which he stated the city is overbilling customers and accused Dixon and others of overcharging customers. Braddock’s document includes attached “revenue reports,” handwritten or typed by him, but provided no documentation. Braddock sent a similar letter to the office of the Attorney General of Kentucky earlier this year.

Mayor Dixon responded after the meeting by saying the whole thing is “stupidity” and said Braddock has no factual basis for his claims. Dixon said that every piece of city financial documentation is given to auditors for the annual city audit and no wrongdoing has been found. In fact, auditors and funders told the city last year it would have to raise water and sewer prices to be able to qualify for federal grants and loans and to service the debt incurred. Dixon said he considered it an insult to his personal integrity as well as that of city workers and offi ce personnel for Braddock to make the allegations.

“Why do you think we have annual audits?” asked Dixon.

In other business, Dixon told the council he is elated that Phase I of the Jenkins Water Line Replacement Project is underway, as evidenced by heavy equipment and pipeline near City Hall and a newly covered trench for pipeline running in front of City Hall and along the road to the city water plant. Dixon said the construction was a welcome sight after his four years of dealing with problems from water leaks, on top of Mayor Robert “Pud” Shubert’s 18 years of dealing with the same situation.

Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who works with the city on water and sewer issues, told the council that several smaller projects along with the current construction have already contributed significantly toward solving the city’s water problems. Nesbitt pointed to the November report from Water Superintendent James “Bo” Hopkins, which shows 11,764,000 gallons of water produced for November with a 13 percent unaccounted for water loss. Nesbitt said the production figure is down 20 to 25 percent from its usual level, which will save the city a considerable amount over the next few years.

In his report, Hopkins mentioned two old lines running to a now defunct old service station, that he said nobody even knew existed and which were still “hot,” that is carrying treated water, but carrying it nowhere but into the ground. Hopkins said cutting those two off, plus taking a fire hydrant out of service which had the bottom of the valve rusted out, causing it to leak a large amount of water, had already made a big diff erence. Nesbitt told the council the contractors would make more such discoveries, all of which will contribute to preserving treated water and reducing losses even as the projects continue.

Nesbitt told the council he expects Phase I to be complete next spring. He said he hopes Phase II, which is funded and is in the final stages of getting easements and satisfying the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency’s (the primary funder) check list, will be ready to start as soon as Phase I is finished. Other projects are underway as well. Plans for sewer line extensions to Dairy Hollow, which has several homes with septic systems sitting at the head of the Jenkins Lake watershed, have been submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water, and the design is being finalized for the Payne Gap Waterline Project. Nesbitt said the portion of the Payne Gap Project, which will be paid for by the Letcher County Fiscal Court ($600,000 in coal severance money) should be ready to join with the rest of the project which will be funded by Abandoned Mine Lands (AML). Nesbitt said the project should start construction sometime after July 2011 when AML funding becomes available. Improvements to the Burdine Wastewater Plant are now complete.

Nesbitt, who recommended the line replacement to Mayor Shubert during his administration, said he is interested is seeing how many diff erent old lines are taken up during the construction. He said when the project is finished, only the new lines will be pressurized and all old lines will be turned off . Nesbitt said he is particularly interesting is seeing some of the old gray plastic lines city workers have told him about.

In his Mayor’s Report, Mayor Dixon pointed to a number of the problems he has encountered in his administration and to some of the successes he and the council have enjoyed. He expressed thanks to all the elected officials who have worked to help the city achieve the things it has, particularly with the water and sewer problems. He praised city workers for the long hours they work in service of the people and said he hopes the water line replacement will free them up from having to repair water leaks so they will be able to spend more time on other jobs.

Dixon thanked Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming, Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward and other fiscal court members as well as Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest for their efforts as well. He presented the council with copies of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy he will present to Annette Napier of the Kentucky River Area Development District and asked them to examine it and make comments so it can begin implementation after the first of the year.

Dixon also told the council one of the real frustrations he encountered during his term was addressing the problems with Elkhorn Lake and the dam. The lake is the city’s prime water supply and has been impacted heavily by water lilies and silt from strip mining operations conducted above its headwaters area. The dam is classified as Class C-High Hazard for failure by the Division of Water, and according to a Division of Water Dam Safety Division Study, failure of the dam would cause loss of life and serious damage downstream. A 2009 study by Nesbitt Engineering showed the probable loss of 136 structures in the event of a catastrophic failure. Dixon has written countless letters to legislators and said he has hounded every elected official he has met with requests for help with the situation.

Dixon also thanked the numerous volunteers who gave their time and efforts to make the city a cleaner, better, and more welcoming place. He praised the work of the Blighted and Deteriorated Property Committee and said removing dilapidated housing had been one of the things he had planned to focus on during his term.

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