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Ousted Jenkins police chief feels like he was ‘used’

Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer has announced that Police Chief Roland Craft is no longer an employee of the city.

Kincer did not elaborate on the reason Craft left the police department, saying that city policy does not allow him to comment on personnel issues. At Monday’s meeting of the Jenkins City Council, Kincer asked the council to approve his nomination of Sgt. Jim Stephens as interim police chief for the city.

“It only seemed natural to me to ask Jim Stephens at least to be our interim (chief ),” Kincer said at the meeting. “We will look over you for three or six months, and in the meantime, I will appoint you as interim chief if everybody agrees.”

The council agreed to the appointment unanimously and Stephens, a former Jenkins police himself, said the department’s goal is to take care of the citizens’ lives and property, but it has some work to do. He asked the council to have patience and to hire enough people to do the job and to help make the department the kind of place to work that will have the same offi cers in 10 years. Stephens said the department is shorthanded at present and he hopes to hire certified personnel if at all possible. He said he has some resumes and applications, and two applicants, one male and one female, will be interviewed next week.

In a later conversation with The Mountain Eagle, former Chief Craft revealed that he was terminated by the council. Craft said he had done his best to enforce the law in Jenkins in a fair and impartial manner and he had not played favorites in any circumstances. He also said he is leaving the Jenkins Police Department in much better shape than it was when he took over as chief in 2012.

Craft said he believes he was used to do a difficult job and then discarded when he stepped on some toes.

“I feel like I was used for 15months to straighten out the police department, which was terrible and in bad shape,” said Craft. “Then I was terminated and told that my services were no longer needed.”

In his conversation with The Eagle, Craft said that he had treated everyone he came into contact equally and had showed no favoritism to anyone. He said he felt the department had performed well although it was constantly undermanned, and the number of calls per shift coming in from Mountain Breeze Apartments, a subsidized housing development at Burdine, had dropped dramatically during his tenure as chief.

In other council business, Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering told the court a fiber optic camera examination of sewer lines coming through and from Dunham had been “fascinating,” and had revealed that the lines were not in as bad shape as had been feared.

The council also certified a certificate of occupancy for the restaurant that will be located in the community center. Whitesburg Architect Bill Richardson complimented the city for all the activity taking place in town, and said the renovations that have been made on the old Bert Fields home are beautiful, solid and of high quality. He said the changes are classy and will last for years. Councilman Rick Damron told Richardson the house was initially constructed of redwood taken from old redwood water tanks.

Richardson showed the council extensive plans for further renovations to the space and complimented Charles Caldwell, who has contracted with the city to establish another branch of his Las Peñas Mexican restaurant at the south end of the center, and added that he believes the plan to take advantage of the city’s ordinance allowing the sale of alcohol in restaurants is an excellent idea. The council voted unanimously to approve the plans.

“To sell a beer with your food, and have a glass of wine, I just think it will be super,” said Richardson.

Several council members suggested that the city pave the parking lot serving the pool, restaurant, and community center. Chuck Anderson also said there should be clearly marked parking spaces to prevent confusion, Kincer said he plans to go to Washington with a grant specialist from Nesbitt Engineering to knock on doors and visit legislators in hope of raising further funds for the project.

City Attorney Randall Tackett read a resolution to allow the city to make an application to the Kentucky Department of Local Government to obtain a 50/50 matching grant in the amount of $150,000 for a splash pad at the Jenkins Pool.

Mayor Kincer told the council he had been contacted by Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming about his concerns that timber trucks hauling out of Dairy Hollow may be doing damage to the road there. Kincer asked the council to place a 10-ton weight limit on the road, but Councilman Rick Damron said all the bridges on city roads already have a 10-ton weight limit. Kincer asked Paul Nesbitt to help in determining if the road on which the trucks are hauling is inside city limits. He said the city does not wish to discourage business, but the road needs to be protected. Rick Damron said if the trucking company in question is a reputable trucking firm, it should have a road bond that will protect the road. City Manager DePriest said that at present the company does not have a bond but it said it would obtain one. The council agreed that a bond would protect the city.

The council also heard the first reading of an ordinance to adopt a parking plan for Number Two Bottom in Burdine. The plan was introduced by Councilman Rick Damron unofficially at last week’s called meeting. Chuck Anderson told the council that changes had been made in parking there a few years ago to allow fire trucks to get through the street as well. He added that he believes every lot in the neighborhood should have one spot.

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