Whitesburg KY

Water, sewer problems worsen in Jenkins

Water and sewer problems for the City of Jenkins have gone from bad to worse, according to Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders. Sanders told the Jenkins City Council Monday evening that the city is now losing approximately three-quarters of the treated water produced at the water plant to leaks. He said the sewer plant is being inundated with water running into the sewer lines from storm drains and downspouts, and through broken pipes.

To make matters worse, a construction mistake made over two years ago has resulted in a home in Number One Bottom being inundated with raw sewage to the point that it may be declared unlivable by Health Department officials.

Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who also serves as city engineer for Jenkins, told the council that when liners were placed into broken sewer lines, a mistake was made in re-opening the access portal from the house. Sanders told the council that District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who represents Jenkins on the Letcher County Fiscal Court, brought the matter to the city’s attention.

Matt Curtis, site engineer for the project, said the contractors had taken every possible precaution to make sure that each inhabited home was attached to the sewer line, but the presence of several uninhabited homes in the neighborhood resulted in the house being left unconnected. Since then, sewage has continued to fill the lines and finally backed up under the house. Sanders estimated there is approximately 12 inches of raw sewage under the house.

Nesbitt said the situation has been remedied and the house is now attached to the sewer line, but was unsure how the damage to the house will be handled. Curtis said he will review every inch of film taken as part of the installation process to see how and when the “lateral” was missed to make sure it won’t happen again. A similar problem at the Burdine Holiness Church was discovered soon after construction and was corrected immediately.

Water Superintendent Bo Hopkins told the council that several major leaks have cost the city over nine million gallons of treated water. He expects the pattern to continue until new water lines are installed. Hopkins said that a fairly accurate figure of 7,504,000 gallons could be attributed directly to breaks in water lines and the total amount of treated water lost is 9,010,666 gallons. The city produced 15,087,000 gallons and sold only 3,994,000 gallons. Mayor Charles Dixon said loss of treated water represents the number one financial drain on the city and agreed with Hopkins that until water line replacements get underway, the situation will continue.

On a brighter side, Nesbitt reported that water line installation in Cane Branch and McPeeks Branch is going well and said the city will be able to pick up a number of new water customers with no accompanying debt since Kentucky Abandoned Mine Lands paid for the project. He also said the city will be allowed to keep $180,000 from completed water projects from AML and apply it to other line extensions. The money comes from projects that came in under budget. Curtis added that the Kentucky Division of Water has approved the Number Two Bottom sewer line repairs and the project will get under way as soon as all the requirements from the funding agencies are fulfilled.

In other business, Benny Hamilton of the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) discussed possible grant opportunities to demolish and renovate blighted and deteriorated houses in the city. Hamilton told the council there are several programs aimed at renovating existing houses and others that help cities clean up sites where houses have been demolished. The problem of what to do with materials from houses that have been taken down by the owner came up too. David Back of the Blighted and Deteriorated Property Commission told the council that older houses have pollutants such as lead paint and asbestos and EPA regulations make it difficult to a take them down and even more so to dispose of the materials, much of which cannot be taken to a regular landfill.

In the Mayor’s Report, Mayor Dixon said that infrastructure, particularly improvements to water and sewer systems, is the number one priority and must be addressed to facilitate growth. The city recently received a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant for water line extensions and will get another $400,000 from coal severance funds allocated for a welcome center project that is not possible due to the refusal of the state to participate. Those funds will be applied to water and sewer problems as well. Other funds are pending.

Dixon also pointed to the problem of revenue for the city. He said the city is constantly strapped for cash and must find additional funds to meet its obligations. Dixon said littering and garbage is still a major problem for the city and urged citizens to use the Blue Bag recycling system to keep down landfill costs. He also thanked Letcher County Emergency Response Coordinator Paul Miles and the Disaster Team for their help during the May storms.

Police Chief Jim Stephens reported that April was a “wild month,” with 38 arrests, up 15 from April. City officers answered 139 complaints and of the 38 arrests, four were for DUI, four were drug related, five for domestic violence and eight were from warrants. Stephens said the city is participating with the Kentucky State Police in the “Click it or Ticket” program and 29 citations were issued in road checks for no seat belt. A total of 54 state citations were issued, including speeding and no seatbelt. One city citation for no occupational license and three for no city sticker were also issued.

Stephens also reported a heart attack victim was recently saved by emergency responders from the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department. He said everything had to go just right in order to keep the victim alive since there was no longer a hospital emergency room in Jenkins and said he hopes that situation will soon be remedied. City officers will participate in the annual KSP DUI campaign in August as well.

Stephens told the council he also received an unusual phone call earlier that day from a man who had been arrested by city officers over the weekend. Stephens said the man had been jailed and his truck impounded, but he called to thank Sgt. Adam Swindall and Officer Tim Miller for treating him professionally and with dignity.

In other city business:

. The Jenkins Planning Committee announced that the first “Movie Night in the City Park” will be held on June 13 at 8:30 p.m. The animated film “The Tale of Despereaux” will be shown. A second film, title so far unannounced, will be shown July 31. Both films, along with free popcorn, are made possible by donations from Premier Elkhorn Coal Corp., Nesbitt Engineering, Whitaker Bank, and Dr. David Narramore DMD of Whitesburg.

. Linda Baldwin of the Homecoming Festival Committee reported that committee members will work with the upcoming Kids Day which will be held in the City Park on June 6 and said they expect over 600 children and adults to attend. Baldwin also told the council the committee is holding a fund-raiser at the Jenkins IGA with a food booth this week. Council member Rebecca Terrill reported that the committee has a bank balance of $5,652 at present. Terrill also reported a lot of positive feedback on the city web site, www.cityofjenkinsky.com.

. The council heard the second reading of the Fiscal Year 2009-10 Budget of $2,470,122 and voted unanimously to accept it. A summary of the budget will be available for public inspection at City Hall.

. The council also approved the second reading of an ordinance reducing the amount of time a water and sewer bill can be overdue before being considered delinquent from 60 to 30 days. Delinquent accounts will be disconnected. In a separate action, they also instituted a $40.00 reconnect fee for water and sewer disconnects.

. The council declined to accept a single bid for paving city streets from Collier Paving for $100 per ton, applied and voted to readvertise for bids.

. The council voted to remove the Tackett house on Adams Street (formerly Number Two Hill) under Blighted and Deteriorated Property laws and went into executive session to emerge with a decision to make an offer to purchase the Collins property on Brick Street.

. Mayor Dixon asked the council to consider dropping the $200 connect fee for new customers at McPeeks Branch and Cane Branch in light of AML funding for the entire project. Dixon said it will allow more people to sign up as water customers and the city will not be out any money. The council unanimously approved Dixon’s suggestion.

. The council also discussed a burned out property in Camden and council member Chuck Anderson said problems with four-wheelers speeding around Number Two Bottom are getting excessive and threaten the safety of people who use the neighborhood for walking.

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