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New hemp plant gets its building, will start in May

A $1.4 million hemp processor that will be located in Letcher County is undergoing testing and should be installed at a Jenkins plant in May.

The processor will be owned and operated by East Kentucky Extraction and will be located at the Gateway Industrial Park in the building vacated by FERUS Industries.

“They took possession of the building yesterday, and they’re getting it ready for the extraction mill,” Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest told The Mountain Eagle on Tuesday. “The mill is being tested and should be there in May.”

Depriest, who also addressed the status of the hemp plant at the Jenkins City Council’s April meeting this week, said he is talking to researchers about where and how hemp can be best grown locally. Sites being looked at include reclaimed strip mines and creek bottoms.

East Kentucky Extraction is based in Pikeville. In a January interview with The Eagle, the company’s director of operations, Neal Spears, pointed out that hemp is not marijuana and that growing hemp is legal but strictly regulated. He said the processing facility will extract the chemical CBD from hemp. CBD, which is used to control seizures, occurs naturally in the hemp flowers, but does not carry mind-altering effects. Interest in CBD is growing amid claims that it can be used to reduce the effects of epilepsy and insomnia, and can be useful in chronic pain management.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the Jenkins council received its 2018 audit with the news that it has achieved some reduction in general fund debt. Lexington/Georgetown Accountant Rodney Welch told the council that in 2018, the city’s reduction in debt was $129,000. The city’s unrestricted net assets stand at $102,000. Welch said the debt reduction is mostly the result of the sale of the property that contained the LKLP building in Dairy Hollow. The sale of the property, which occurred in 2017, increased total revenue for that year to $1,288,000. Revenue for 2018 was $1,042,000. Total expenditures for 2018 were $1,262,000, down from $1,312,000 in 2017. Welch grew up in Jenkins and has offices in Lexington and Georgetown.

Welch said that the city has several positives in this year’s report, including the balance between the amount of water treated and the amount of water sold. The Water Line Replacement Project, which was undertaken during the administration of Robert “Pud” Shubert, saw the city’s water and sewer systems rehabilitated with all new water lines, and refurbished sewer lines, along with improvements to both water and sewer plants. Since the project has been completed, losses of treated water have dropped from more than 75 percent to under 20 percent on average. Kentucky Rural Water estimates losses under 20 percent as acceptable .

Mayor Todd Depriest told the council that while he is happy with the results of the audit, the city needs to keep an eye on depreciation of equipment and infrastructure. Depriest referred to the need for a vote to borrow money at last month’s meeting in order to purchase a rebuilt engine for the city’s backup sanitation truck. He said that when the city does have a surplus, the council needs to put some back as an emergency fund to take care of sudden need, and added that depreciation is inevitable in equipment and infrastructure. Depriest told the council Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP) will conduct a rate study on water and sewer costs this year and said the city needs to look to the future.

Mayor Depriest reported that after resubmitting three applications to qualify for matching funds to complete the sidewalk from Lakeside to the highway across from Jenkins Middle High School, things are finally getting sorted out. He said he has heard indications that the city may qualify for the grant in time to get the sidewalk finished in time for the Jenkins Homecoming Festival in August.

City Manager Benny McCall reported that a new wrinkle has come up in dealing with blighted and deteriorated property. Mc Call said that after tracking down the contact information of heirs and owners of property that has been abandoned for years, several of the people he has been in touch with have offered to surrender the property to the city in exchange for having their tax burden forgiven. City Attorney Randall Tackett cautioned that some of the property may come with liabilities that are considerably greater than the value. He said that in addition to the cost of demolishing blighted structures, there may be liens against the property that haven’t shown up. Tackett said each property would have to be carefully researched to make sure the city isn’t entering into an arrangement that will carry long-term costs.

Tackett said the city already has a problem about what to do with construction debris from demolished structures. He said that construction debris is often treated differently than regular garbage at landfills and is sometimes difficult to dispose of.

Depriest announced that the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department is partnering with the Red Cross to provide smoke detectors. He said anyone interested should contact city hall, the fire department, or a firefighter. He added that the Dumpster at the city park is for the use of Jenkins citizens who pay a sanitation bill. The council also approved passing Resolution 4019 for an application to the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to help provide safety equipment for the Jenkins Police Department.

The Jenkins Police Department responded to 33 calls of service in March. The department issued 12 citations and made 11 arrests, issued eight warnings and served four summonses. One arrest was drug-related and one was for domestic violence. Officers also responded to two collisions without injury and made three motorist assists.

The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department made 23 runs in March, including one structure fire, four accidents, and three brush fires. It also made four emergency medical service runs, addressed one animal problem, and made three public service calls. One call was canceled en route, one was for an alarm sounding, and one was for a sprinkler malfunction. Firefighter Eddie Hartsfield was certified and firefighters talked to Head Start students about fire prevention.

The city produced 12,186,000 gallons of treated water in March and sold 9,407,000 gallons for a difference of 2,779,000, a potential loss of 23 percent. Of that, 467,000 gallons is accounted for by water treatment plant and fire department use, leaving an unaccounted loss of 2,312,000, or 19 percent.

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