Good news on two long-awaited water and sewer projects highlighted the February meeting of the Jenkins City Council. Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, which works with the city on water and sewer projects, announced that both the Number Two Sewer Project and the Camden Water Project will have pre-construction meetings on February 16 and both will begin construction shortly thereafter.
Mayor Charles Dixon told the council he has planned a groundbreaking for the Number Two Bottom Sewer Project for 2:30 p.m. on February 16. The project will relieve a blockage problem caused by lines from Mountain Breeze Apartments overwhelming the smaller line at Number Two Bottom by routing the Number Two line around the existing lines, and should prevent the regular back-up people in the neighborhood experience. The Camden Water Project will run a new line around a “mishmash” of older water lines that have been a constant source of leaks and line breakages. The old lines will then be disconnected.
Nesbitt also reported progress on the $1.4 million Phase I of the Waterline Improvement Project. He said that except for executing easements, everything is ready to move forward. When all phases are finished, the Waterline Improvement Project will cut out all the existing lines in the city and replace them with one new system. The council and mayor have expressed their hopes that this will alleviate the ongoing problems with water leaks that have cost the city untold thousands of dollars. Loss of treated water in Jenkins has averaged almost 75 percent in recent months, with about 50 percent being unaccounted, and overall losses have been well over 50 percent for years.
Design work on Phase II of the Water Improvement Project is about 85 percent complete and Nesbitt said designs will be complete for submittal to the Kentucky Department of Water (DOW) sometime this spring. As soon as the engineering plans are approved by DOW, he will begin work on a Community Development Block Grant for funding Phase II. Nesbitt said that Phase II will take new lines at least to Number One Bottom in Burdine, and could go further depending on construction costs.
Plans for the Payne Gap Water Project will be submitted to the DOW in late February or early March. Nesbitt said he believes the entire Payne Gap Project will be eligible for funding by the Bureau of Land Management’s Abandoned Mine Lands fund. He said in any event, the Letcher County Fiscal Court also has money set aside for the work. Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who attended the meeting, asked if construction could begin before the AML money is available, using the county funds and then allowing the AML money to repay monies expended. Fleming stressed the need for treated water in the Payne Gap service area and Nesbitt said he will ask the AML.
Fleming said that while he also believes that the Payne Gap Project is 100 percent AML fundable, the need for water in Payne Gap is so great that he would hope that AML would see the need as well and allow work to begin. Nesbitt said he had asked for an exception similar to the Payne Gap work with AML before and had been turned down, but said given the nature of the situation in Payne Gap, AML may reach a diff erent decision.
Other projects are also underway, including an upgrade to the Jenkins Wastewater Plant. The city is still looking for funding to dredge Elkhorn Lake in Jenkins and to repair the dam. Nesbitt said he expects to be ready to advertise for bids on the wastewater plant in the next two weeks and will bring in a recommendation on the low bidder for the March meeting. Mayor Dixon expressed frustration with the slow pace of obtaining funding on the Elkhorn Lake and dam work, but said he has spoken with Bob Mitchell of Fifth District U.S. Congressman Harold ‘Hal’ Rogers’s office and the city is gathering information to submit to the congressman. Nesbitt presented original dam designs and a 1984 study of the dam conducted by Fuller and Mossberg, a Lexington engineering company. Dixon also expressed thanks to Harold Kelly and Mark Wampler, owners of Mine Management Consultants, for work they have done in studying the lake and dam and for work done by MMC employee Robert Pennell.
“I can’t think of a more important project in the Fifth District than rebuilding that dam and dredging the lake,” said Dixon.
The monthly water loss figures submitted by Water Department Superintendent Bo Hopkins show why the water line improvements are so vital to the city. A 48 percent loss of treated water for unaccounted reasons and a 77 percent total water loss reveal the city’s plight. Utilities Commission Chairman Ked Sanders expressed his frustration, saying, “The figures just keep getting worse.”
Sanders told the council that although a computer glitch kept the number of gallons sold from being completely accurate, the other figures are correct. Sanders said the commission believes that inadequate use of manpower is one reason the city has so many problems with leaks. He cited extreme water incursion problems in lines running into the sewer plant as an example. Although the capacity of the wastewater plant is currently 600,000 gallons per day for treatment, Sanders said more than three million gallons per day are running through the plant. He emphasized the “running through,” and said there is no way the plant can treat that amount of water and the untreated sewage just flows through the plant and runs back into Elkhorn Creek. Sanders said the city must make better use of its small workforce to repair leaks in sewer lines which cause the incursions.
“We recommend you hire a superintendent to ensure that manpower is correctly utilized,” said Sanders. “Water, sewer, sanitation, road, all have their own department head, but nobody is in overall charge. You need one superintendent in charge to meet with department heads every day and make sure work is assigned.”
The council took no action on Sanders’s suggestion, but in other business, Mayor Dixon announced that Acting Police Chief Adam Swindall has been appointed chief of police in accordance with a recommendation by the Police Commission. Swindall reported that Officer Wendy Bates was recently hired after being interviewed and recommended by the Commission and she will begin the Department of Criminal Justice’s 18-week basic training at the Kentucky Police Academy in Richmond soon.
Chief Swindall also reported that Jenkins officers responded to 83 complaints in January, including one domestic violence call and nine vehicle collisions. Officers helped nine motorists who needed assistance and made six arrests, four of which were drug related with two DUIs. Six citations were written, two summons served, and seven warnings were issued as well.
Swindall and Mayor Dixon both emphasized the importance of purchasing city stickers. Swindall said as of February 1, city stickers are past due and there will be a fine for anyone who lives or works in the city and does not have one. City stickers can be purchased at City Hall from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Dixon said there will be vigorous enforcement on city stickers.
Mayor Dixon pointed out the reason for the importance of citizens purchasing city stickers and paying other city fees in the Mayor’s Report. Dixon told the council the city has not only been forced to purchase an additional two loads of road salt at $9,000 because of the bad weather, city workers have also worked long hours to keep roads clear, fix water line breaks, and to attend to other weather-related situations and have amassed considerable amounts of overtime. Magistrate Fleming said while overtime for the first big snow that occurred in December should be paid by emergency funds since Governor Beshear declared a state emergency, no determination has been made on the snowfall of the past weekend. Dixon said the purchase of city stickers is imperative to help with the costs of roadwork.
The mayor and council were unanimous in praising city workers for their dedication to serving the citizens of Jenkins during the snow and freezing weather. Rebecca Terrill said city workers have gone well beyond the call of duty and urged citizens to have patience in the face of overwhelming weather-related situations.
“I want to praise our city work crews,” said Terrill. “They have worked in freezing weather, the city workers, police and fire departments, everybody. It’s been a bad December and a bad January and it’s been very hard for everyone, but sometimes, people have to wait till they can get to things to get them done. Everyone in the city should thank them.”
The mayor also issued an “Unsung Hero” citation and a plaque to James “Jabo” Fouts, who owns Jabo’s Machine Shop in Jenkins, for his voluntary involvement in city affairs. Dixon said that since locating his business in Jenkins in 1997, Fouts has been an excellent corporate citizen and has made it his business to help the city at every opportunity, including allowing the use of a “sparkling clean flatbed truck” as a platform for the sound system for parades and celebrations. Fouts also provided metal and metalwork at no charge for a giant mural at the Jenkins High School administration building and is a generous contributor to local churches, fund-raisers, and other activities. Fouts thanked the mayor and said he feels like it is his obligation as a citizen to be involved in the city’s life.
In other council affairs:
• Councilman Chuck Anderson proposed an ordinance mandating that people only be allowed to park on the left side of the street in Number Two Bottom. He cited problems with snow removal and a recent accident that were caused by people parking on both sides of the street.
• The council went into a brief executive session and emerged with a hearing date scheduled for former Jenkins Police Officer Scott Ratliff . The hearing will be held February 15l.
• Magistrate Fleming presented the council with copies of a DVD presentation created by Dean Cornett of Blackey about the bears of Letcher County. Fleming also urged the council to appoint a person to coordinate tourism in Jenkins with the Letcher County Tourism Commission.