Valentines Day will be extra special for residents of Jenkins this year, with the grand opening of the new Save-A-Lot Grocery Store. Sharon Dotson, senior operations manager for the Mountain Division of Saver Group, which owns Savea Lot, visited the February meeting of the Jenkins City Council and announced the opening. Dotson said that the first load of groceries has arrived and is being stocked by 16 new employees. She said she expects to see 10 more people hired and that the store will receive a “fill order” on Wednesday this week. It will receive the first load of meat next Tuesday, in preparation for the grand opening on Wednesday, February 14, at 8 a.m.
Dotson told the council that the store will be very attractive and that the Jenkins store will be the first store in the group to operate with a new decor package. She added that the Campbellsville based Saver Group is a Kentucky enterprise, and said it is well managed with a good group of people to work with.
In another economic matter, Mayor Todd Depriest told the council he has been working with state legislators in an attempt to get the General Assembly to modify laws that place restrictions on gambling operations in municipalities. He said a proposed casino for the Raven Rock area will be for much more than just gambling, and will incorporate all the tourist attractions available in Letcher County as part of an adventure park that will emphasize regional family attractions.
Depriest said Raven Rock is the ideal location to locate a resort and tourist center and while the casino will be the centerpiece, adventure and heritage tourism will draw tourists. He suggested that people with questions about the effect of locating a casino in the city should visit Murphy, N.C., or look the city up on the Internet. Depriest said that since Harrah’s Cherokee Valley and River Casino and Hotel have been located there, over 1,000 jobs have been added and tourism is way up.
Depriest told the council the number of families in Murphy has grown and that people are no longer moving to metropolitan areas in Charlotte and Raleigh in search of work. He said when the textile mills, which had been the main source of jobs for the city, closed people began to move away in search of opportunity in much the same way that people have moved out of Jenkins and Letcher County following the collapse of the coal industry. He added that the issue for him is jobs, to fuel stability and growth in the city.
Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation, which operates the Harrah’s Casinos, has expressed an interest in the Jenkins site. According to information available on its website, Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation is an American gaming corporation based in Paradise, Nev., that owns and operates over 50 casinos and hotels, and seven golf courses under several brands. This includes sites in New Orleans, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas, as well as in smaller areas such as the Cherokee Center in Murphy, Bossier City, La., Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Harrah’s Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Miss.
Depriest pointed to recent population losses to the city as businesses have moved away and families have left in search of better opportunities. At one time Jenkins was a thriving city with a booming economy driven by the coal mines operated by CONSOL, and later by Bethlehem Steel, but the collapse of the coal industry has driven it to the tipping point. He said that quality of life will inevitably continue to decline as the population dwindles and that it is getting harder for the city to maintain basic services such as police and fire protection, sanitation, and the other municipal services that maintain a basic quality of existence.
“It’s not just gambling,” said Depriest. “It’s a resort park and restaurant. We want to make it a destination. The main thing is quality of life for Jenkins. If we don’t grow it will be harder to provide services for the people who live here.”
In other business, Accountant Rodney Welch, of Welch & Company of Lexington and Georgetown presented the audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. The city is in sound financial shape, with receipts for the Water and Sewer Funds and accounts receivable up slightly from last year. Asset additions are down because the city is about finished with its water and sewer projects. Property taxes rose by about $20,000 over 2016 although Intergovernmental Revenue dropped by $100,000 due to declines in severance tax, LGEA funds and other governmental sources. Total revenue was $1,288,000, up over $200,000.
Total expenditures are up as well, at $1,312,000, against $1,165,000 in 2016. Depreciation and amortization of infrastructure is up by $80,000 because the city now has more facilities to depreciate, particularly in the area of water and sewer. The general fund was up due to the sale of the Leslie, Perry Knott, Letcher Community Action Council building in Dairy Hollow, and the city showed some improvement in water loss, with water losses down by $35,000. Losses in solid waste remained the same and sewer losses were up by about $6,000. The city is paying its debts and Welch said that at least for now, it looks like the city will not have to enter into further debt for water and sewer projects. He added that the difference between treated water and water sold has diminished quite a bit due to decreases in water losses.
City Attorney Randall Tackett, who is also on the Board of Directors of the David A. Zegeer Coal and Railroad Museum, gave the council the museum’s financial summary for 2017. The museum had total expenses of $5,683.43 against a beginning balance of $9,309.03 and income of $4,520.50, leaving a balance of $8,146.10 as of December 31, 2016.
Tackett said income was down a little in 2017, mostly from rent and gift shop sales. He said there had been few major expenditures, but that the board will probably redo the roof soon, which will be a major expense. He added that the museum’s main source of advertising is by placing brochures in kiosks at tourism centers, rest areas, and other places frequented by tourists, and said the museum’s brochure had won the Small Museum Kentucky State Award for graphics in the brochures.
The city produced 14,870,000 gallons of water in January and sold 12,850,000 gallons. That left a difference of 2,020,000 gallons, or a 14 percent potential loss. Of that amount, 25,000 gallons were used by the fire department, leaving an unaccounted loss of 1,995,000 gallons, or 13 percent. The council also voted unanimously to allow the Jenkins varsity softball team to hold a fundraising roadblock in March.
The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department answered 31 calls in January, which included 10 for public service, three for structure fires, seven emergency medical service calls, and two each for police assists and vehicle accidents. Three calls were weather related and one was for an extrication, one for odor removal, and one was cancelled in route.