2008-12-03 / Front Page

Councilman says he's been getting threats on his life

By WILLIAM FARLEY

A Jenkins City Council member says he has been the subject of death threats and is the victim of a conspiracy being conducted against him because of some of the stands he has taken at council meetings.

Councilman Terry Braddock talked publicly about the threats he says have been made against him during council's December meeting on Monday night. Braddock made the charges after he interrupted a report on city utilities to question several water bills which he said were excessive. When Mayor Charles Dixon asked Braddock to wait until a portion of the meeting set aside to hear citizen's concerns, Braddock persisted and told Dixon his life had been threatened and made a vague reference to what he called a conspiracy against him.

"I've had my life threatened," said Braddock. "All the hate and anger against me isn't right."

"You're out of order," replied Dixon. "We're discussing the water loss situation."

Braddock did not mention the alleged conspiracy or threats further, but said at the end of the meeting he would take his concerns to "another venue."

In a long awaited vote on equalizing garbage rate for businesses, the council voted down a proposal from the Jenkins Utilities Commission that would have created a standard rate (by the cubic yard) for business customers that would have seen some rates lowered and some raised. The council then approved a motion introduced by Councilman Chuck Anderson to set the rate for all new customers at $3.75 per cubic yard. Anderson's motion, however, contained no language to address the inequality in garbage rates which Mayor Dixon said range from $2.12 per cubic yard for some customers to $17.19 for others. A frustrated Dixon asked Anderson and Councilman Rick Damron, who supported establishing a set rate for all customers, to work together to come up with a compromise. After the initial debate, Council Member Rebecca Terrill made a motion to set the rate for all customers at $3.75 per cubic yard. Terrill said the matter was one of fairness for customers as well as a necessity for the city to bring rates up to a break-even point for the Jenkins Sanitation Department, which Mayor Dixon said lost $20,000 last year and is on schedule to lose that much or more this year. Damron seconded Terrill's motion, which failed three to two with Braddock, Anderson, and Council Member Carol Anne Litts voting no. Anderson's motion to leave the existing structure alone but set a rate for all new customers at $3.75 then passed by the same margin with Anderson, Braddock, and Litts voting yes and Terrill and Damron voting no. All three who voted against Terrill's motion said they did so because of a possible rate increase to some customers.

"I agree that everyone should pay the same," said Anderson. "The drastic increase was my concern."

"This is a disaster," said Terrill. "It's not correct. When a new business comes in they need to be told the rates. The uneven payment is not fair. It has to be evened up. It's bad business and unprofessional. It has to be evened out and it has to be fair."

Dixon agreed with Damron and Terrill that the rates should be equalized and said he has spoken with state government officials who told him that a public utility cannot operate at a deficit. He also said the issue was one of basic fairness in pricing.

"The rates we have now are not fair," said Dixon. "We need one rate per cubic yard. This is only fair. We're $20,000 in the hole. It will be $40,000 soon. A public utility cannot run a deficit."

After Terrill's motion failed, Anderson then moved that the rate for all new businesses be set at $3.75 per cubic yard as of January 1 until the council can come up with another plan. Damron and Terrill both objected because of the current losses and the uneven pricing structure but Anderson's motion passed with Litts and Braddock voting with him to support it. Mayor Dixon expressed his disappointment that the rate discrepancy had not been addressed and that the Sanitation Department was still operating at a deficit but said at least he could tell any new business what their rate would be. Dixon asked Anderson and Damron if they felt they could sit on a committee together and work out an equitable rate structure, and both agreed. However, Damron said the rate structure would eventually come back and bite the council.

"It will bankrupt the city," said Damron. "If people who pay excessive bills file suit against the city, we won't have a leg to stand on. Is it OK to keep it inequitable?"

In other business, the council passed the second reading of a new city sticker ordinance which allows for a one-month grace period for purchase. The new ordinance sets December 31 as the final day to purchase city stickers, but says violators won't be cited before January 31.

Braddock asked that the grace period be extended further into February, but his motion died for lack of a second.

In a report to the council, Water Superintendent Bo Hopkins said new readings show that the Jenkins sewer plant is responsible for use of about three million gallons of treated water every month. Hopkins said that the plant is using treated water to wash down some basins and other equipment that can be cleaned with "gray" water (water that has the effluent removed). He also said he had discovered that a water hose was being left on to keep it from freezing, which accounted for about a million gallons a month. Hopkins also said the water and sewer department are working together on a process to introduce chlorine and other chemicals into the sewer treatment process, which will eliminate the need for most of the water now being used for that purpose. He said that measure, along with turning off and draining the water hose to prevent it from freezing, will cut water use at the sewer plant drastically.

Hopkins said water losses for November stood at 9,166,000 or 66 percent. This included 4,974,800 gallons which were accounted for including 2,974,000 gallons at the sewer plant, and 4,191,200 gallons which cannot be accounted for. 1,764,000 gallons were lost to breaks in water lines. Hopkins said that nine service line leaks were located and repaired including three going to the Raven Rock golf course which had been large leaks. The water department produced 13,988,000 gallons in November and sold 4,822,000.

City Engineer Paul Nesbitt told the council that Mark Fibus, who works with him at Nesbitt Engineering and is more of an expert in sewer plants, will meet with sewer workers and discuss the modifications to introduce chlorine gas without using so much water. Nesbitt also told the council that when Congress begins its new session in Washington on January 20, it is his understanding that President-elect Barack Obama has asked that infrastructure legislation be ready to be introduced to serve as an economic stimulus and create jobs in repairing the aging highway and water and sewer infrastructure in the United States.

Nesbitt told the council that projects which are ready to go to construction will be initially favored and said he has several for Jenkins which are ready to go. He said the amount of money allocated for the work will be massive, and he will ask for over $1 million to upgrade the city's existing sewer lines to standard. He also will seek funding to complete phases one and two of the city water project to replace and bypass old water lines, some of which date back to 1908. Nesbitt also said several other water and sewer projects are ready to go and that the city should be proactive in seeking federal funding while the money is available.

Nesbitt also told the council that plans to extend water and sewer lines to the "Interpretative Center" (formerly the Welcome Center) at the Kentucky-Virginia state line on U.S. 23 are complete and are in Frankfort for final approval from the Division of Water. The plans include line extensions to the Little Shepherd Amphitheater. He said the Abandoned Mine Lands-funded work at McPeeks Branch and Cane Branch will be ready for bids soon and should be finished by early spring.

In other business:

• Mayor Dixon said a drop box has been placed in front of the entrance to City Hall for after-hours payments of utility and tax bills.

• Dixon praised Council Member Linda Baldwin for her service to the city. Baldwin was not re-elected and did not attend the meeting.

• Police Chief Jim Stephens introduced Father Santoush, who is the new Priest at St. George Catholic Church in Jenkins. Father Santoush, who is from India, said he regrets the recent attacks in Mumbai and said recent break-ins at the church in Jenkins worry him. He also said that everyone is welcome to come to Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

• Stephens said the Christmas Parade is set for December 6 at 6:00 p.m., and asked that anyone who has a float or is participating in the parade be in front of the Old Jenkins High School at 5:30. The Jenkins High School band will march in the parade.

• Fire Chief Rick Corbett told the council the fire department has purchased a new heavy rescue vehicle and as soon as lights are installed, it will be ready for use. The council voted unanimously to continue to provide one free city sticker per member to volunteer fire fighters. Firefighter Christine Honaker has been redeployed either to Iraq or Afghanistan. Honaker is a member of the Army National Guard and this will mark her fourth deployment to a combat zone.

• The Shriners were given permission by the council to hold a fundraising roadblock in the city on Saturday, December 6 from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.

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