The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District has voted to de-activate the Blackey Water Plant as long as doing so doesn’t cause the county to lose any funding tied to the plant.
The board took the measure at its June meeting at the suggestion of Water Superintendent Mark Lewis, who also recommended putting a permanent separation between the Blackey plant and the rest of the county water system. Lewis said the plant can be reactivated if the need ever arises, adding that the separation will serve as a lockout. The Blackey plant would still serve as home for the water system’s telemetry equipment, as Lewis said it would cost $16,000 to relocate it. The board also voted to reinstitute Internet service to the Blackey plant so that the needed computer programs can be operated properly.
In other business, the board discussed hiring part-time workers to inspect every water meter on the county system to look for any illegal hook-ups. The audit was recommended by the Kentucky Rural Water Association. Lewis said the part-time workers are needed because his current staff doesn’t have time to perform the task. Lewis said there is no need for the workers until after the water and sewer district completes its planned purchase of a 2011 Ford Ranger 4WD Super Cab pickup. The truck has a base price of around $16,000 and will be purchased from Paul Miller Ford in Lexington
The board also heard that new funding is being obtained for water projects, and that ongoing political differences in Harlan County have prevented the Tri- City Water District from doing business with Letcher County.
Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward told the board that he and District Two Magistrate Terry Adams attended a meeting in Frankfort with Division of Abandoned Mine Lands officials earlier this month and were promised an additional $800,000 in start-up money for the Payne Gap water project. Ward said AML had been pleased with the county’s appropriation of $600,000 in coal severance money for use to get the project underway before AML funding kicks in and said the $1.4 million on hand should keep the project going until AML funds are available. Ward said the $800,000 brings the total amount of AML funding for Letcher County for the coming fiscal year to $4.8 million.
Kentucky River Area Development District representative Benny Hamilton told the board that more than $2 million is now available to several projects now that construction has started. He said the Cumberland River project was allotted $1 million in a line item and the Thornton project has a line item of $900,000 and Red Star has $400,000. All three projects were funded in previous budgets but the money was not available until construction was initiated. He said he has filed paperwork to extend the deadline dates on each allocation past June 30.
Ward told the board the funding had been line items in prior state budgets and had been extended each fiscal year so it would be available when construction started. He said the additional funds will be used to extend water lines. Ward said the additional funding at Thornton, added to other funds allotted by the fiscal court in a change order to take lines past Gazelle Drive, should take water lines a good way up Highway 805 toward Millstone.
Hamilton also told the board a question about voting matters on tie votes had arisen in deliberations over the Tri-City Water District collaboration between Benham, Lynch, and Cumberland. He said each city has two members on the board and the dispute will have to be settled before that district can decide if it will honor its agreement to provide water to the Cumberland River area.
Board Secretary Tiffany Collins told the board the district’s gasoline bill is down by $975 from last month. Board Chairman Phillip “Pee Wee” Back said the board will look at a cost of living raise for district workers.