Whitesburg KY

Police officer shortage affecting City of Jenkins

A shortage of police officers in the City of Jenkins is hampering efforts to keep students at Jenkins Independent Schools safe as they arrive at and leave school. At the November meeting of the Jenkins City Council, Councilman Robert Adams questioned why Jenkins police officers were not directing traffic at the entrance of Jenkins Middle High School. Adams said he has seen Jenkins MHS Principal David Lee out directing traffic and said the situation is not safe for Lee or for the people leaving the school and traffic passing the entrance.

“We need police officers at school directing traffic,” said Adams.

Jenkins Mayor G.C. Kincer told Adams that while he agrees with him, the Jenkins Police Department at present only has three police officers on staff. He said that Officer Crystal Davis recently left the department to accept another position, which left the police department with three officers. Kincer told the council that while the city is accepting applications for officers, trained officers are hard to come by and not many are looking for work. Kincer also said that Jenkins Police Chief Roland Craft has worked with JMS Principal Lee to train him in traffic control.

“ I would like to see the police direct traffic at school,” said Adams.

Council member Rebecca Amburgey asked if the Burdine School was also without an officer and Kincer said the reason Lee was directing traffic at JMS was so that an officer could work the elementary school at Burdine, which has long been a subject of concern with gravel and coal trucks as well as automobiles speeding by the entrance to the school, especially when traffic is often clogged at drop-off and pick-up times. Amburgey said that the safety of the city’s children is the most important issue the council can address and agreed with Adams that city officers must be present at both schools when students arrive and leave, even if it means paying overtime.

Councilman Rick Damron said the ideal number of police officers for the city would be five and urged Kincer to try to bring department numbers up to that level. He said every shift has to be filled and officers have to be on duty at all times. Officer Joe Holbrook said the shortage will become even more critical in December, when he is scheduled to attend the Kentucky Police Academy in Richmond. Holbrook told the council that one officer cannot handle directing traffic at both schools and responding to calls and added that the city can expect no help from the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department or the Kentucky State Police, because both agencies are also shorthanded due to budget constraints.

In other business, the council heard a presentation from John Knausz from the Kentucky Deferred Compensation Authority, an agency of the Kentucky Department of Personnel that provides supplemental 401K retirement investment plans for municipalities and other agencies. Knausz told the council it could structure the program any way it wishes in terms of matching funds and time served before employees are eligible to participate or to draw funds out.

Mayor Kincer said he would convene a meeting of city employees and set a date for Knausz to address them and explain the plan. The plan is voluntary and in the past, no city employees have participated. Kincer said this is because the low pay for city employees makes it difficult for them to take anything out of their paychecks.

The council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that allows it to enter into a loan/bond arrangement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for up to $488,000 in Rural Development funding. The loan is contingent on bond sales and will be part of an overall package of more than $1 million to fund the rehabilitation of city sewer lines. Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering told the council the loan is necessary for the city to receive the additional funds and that the package is based on 45 percent in loan funds and 55 percent in grants. He added that USDA initially wanted to do a 65 percent loan, 35 percent grant package, but decided to make the terms better for the city with the current rate. The city will be able to opt out if bond arrangements are not to the council’s satisfaction.

City Attorney Randall Tackett told the council it was his duty to inform it that a standard clause in the arrangement states that in the event the city cannot pay the loan payments, it will be forced to initiate a tax hike to service the loan. Tackett said the clause is standard with most loans from government and quasi-government agencies and that it is the reason cities are able to obtain loans. The clause is present in most loan arrangements Letcher County cities and the Letcher County Fiscal Court enter into, including funding for infrastructure such as water lines, buildings and building repairs and other necessary expenditures.

Nesbitt told the council the sewer rehabilitation will not add any new customers but will keep the city sewer plant in compliance with state water quality laws by reducing the amount of rainwater and other nonsewer liquid going to the city sewer plant. City Manager Todd DePriest told the council that the capacity of the sewer plant is one of the factors that prospective businesses look at when they consider the Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins as a possible site to locate.

Nesbitt also reported that Phase III of the Jenkins Waterline Replacement Project is complete and submitted a final invoice for work done on the project. He said the city has $157,000 left over in unused funding which will be applied to work to be done to rehabilitate the filtration system in the city water plant.

The rest of the work will be paid for by Abandoned Mine Lands since the city will supply water to customers in the Payne Gap Water Project, which is funded by AML. Nesbitt said he had met earlier that day with city officials and the contractor, Herrick Company of Lawrenceburg, for a preconstruction meeting. The contractor has ordered the necessary parts and equipment to rehab the filters and it will probably take up to 10 weeks to receive everything. The contractor will not begin the work until the parts are actually onsite in order to keep the down time to a minimum.

Mayor Kincer told the council that former Mayor Robert “Pud” Schubert, who serves as Vice Mayor, had requested that the city look at annexing several areas around the city. Kincer said the annexation was intended to fill in gaps in the city created by the construction of US 23. Paul Nesbitt said he had gone over city maps with Schubert and Kincer and that Nesbitt Engineering will submit an annexation plan to the council that will round out the city and allow for growth.

The city produced 17,714,000 gallons of treated water in October and sold 5,693,000, including 593,000 to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District. The remainder of treated water lost accounted for a 68 percent loss of which 5,803,000 gallons were accounted for, leaving an unaccounted loss of 33 percent. City Manager Todd DePriest said there had been two large leaks in main lines, but added that there were no leaks in any of the new lines installed as part of the waterline replacement project.

DePriest also reported that the city is in the process of closing out a grant from the Department of Homeland Security for digital radios for emergency vehicles and has applied for another grant to rework the rest of the radio system. The fire department made 19 runs in October and responded to one house fire and 5 EMS calls. City workers hauled 116 tons of solid waste to the landfill and collected 893 “blue bags” of recyclables.

In other city business:

• Rebecca Amburgey said she has received calls complaining about garbage around two houses on Mudtown Hill and said the houses in question also have rats. She also said she has received calls about speeding at Number Two Bottom and several other places in town. Amburgey and Councilman Chuck Anderson both recommended that people who observe speeding or other violations of the law alert the police department.

• The Jenkins Christmas Parade will be held on Saturday, December 7 at 5 p.m. Anyone wishing to participate may contact Rebecca Amburgey.

• Tackett reminded the council that the city’s roadblock ordinance requires that groups holding roadblocks for fundraising purposes are required to give anyone who donates some visible proof that they have given.

• The council discussed the ongoing problem of gravel and coal trucks speeding in city limits. Mayor Kincer said he will see that city police officers enforce speed limits.

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