Carcassonne area residents attended two public meetings in less than a week to voice complaints about their lack of access to treated water.
The residents addressed the Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District last Thursday, and members of the Letcher Fiscal Court earlier this week.
Susan Jent told the Water and Sewer District board that Carcassonne residents had been promised on more than one occasion that they would be next in line for water line extensions, but the promises had not come true. David Caudill told about spending a significant amount of money to drill a 300-foot deep well that later became useless.
“I had fresh water in 2007,” said Caudill. “I don’t have any water in 2012. I have a 300-foot post hole.”
The Carcassonne residents also complained about having to pay $110 per 1,000 gallons delivered to their homes by the Letcher Fire Department when the same amount of water costs $22.60 at the county terminal.
Bell Engineering representative Jamie Noll said that the Carcassonne/Bull Creek/Elk Creek Water Line Extension Project has been approved for funding by the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands ( AML) but won’t receive the funding until after bids are awarded for construction of the Cram Creek/Pine Creek/ Pert Creek extension project — a step that is expected to occur this July. The Carcassonne residents asked why the Mayking-area project was funded first since both projects are listed together in planning. Noe said AML has limited funds to work with and usually funds projects in phases. The Carcassonne residents asked for the telephone number of AML officials in Frankfort and said they wanted to talk to them to find out why their project had not been granted funding first in light of their need.
Noe explained that before completion of the Knott County Interconnect, which supplies water to Letcher County from Carr Creek Lake, was complete, the Letcher County Water and Sewer District had reached its maximum capacity to serve the customers it already had at the time and the state Division of Water told the district board it had to develop another water source.
Phillip “Peewee” Back, chairman of the Water and Sewer District Board, assured the Carcassonne residents there had been no foul play in the way the project is funded. Back said Abandoned Mine Land regulations are set in stone and cannot be changed by either the water district or the Letcher Fiscal Court.
Following a suggestion to them made by Back, the residents also took their complaints to the fiscal court at its February meeting on Monday night.
Michelle Caudill told the court she mortgaged her house to have a well drilled and when the well went dry she still had the mortgage to pay. Caudill said it takes about a thousand gallons of water each week to run her five-person household and the Letcher Volunteer Fire Department charges more than $100 per 1,000-gallon load to haul the water.
Jon Henrikson, acting as spokesman for the group at Monday’s meeting, told the court that lines were put in place by James River Coal to serve a part of the community affected by mining run close to Carcassonne and said it would not be hard to extend those lines to serve the area in need.
District Four Magistrate Keith Adams said the community is less than half a mile from the water source at Vicco in Perry County and asked if approximately $875,000 allocated by the General Assembly for a Blackey sewer plant could be redirected to Carcassonne. After Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said the decision would be up to the state legislature, the court voted unanimously to file a request with the General Assembly to re-allocate the funds.
( The Blackey Sewer Project was killed in 2009 after only 17 of 60 Blackey residents would sign easements required for securing grants and loans needed to pay for the project.)
In other business at last week’s Water And Sewer District Board meeting, Bell Engineering’s Noe presented a “Summarization of Project Activity” to the board and said that preconstruction conferences have been held with the respective contractors for Phase III of the Thornton Water Project and the Deane Water Project. Both meetings were held on February 16 and both contractors were issued notices advising them to begin construction before February 29.
Noe said line installation is complete on the Red Star/Ulvah and Hallie projects and customers are being connected. Cleanup and paving remain and Bell Engineering has sent a letter to the contractor informing the company of the district’s expressed concern regarding its slow progress. The district holds $133,091.20 from the contractor in retainage (funds held to ensure complete compliance with the signed bid) and the contractor has been invoiced for 748,000 gallons of water used in flushing pipes.
The Kentucky Division of Water has approved Phase I of the Pert Creek/Pine Creek/Cram Creek Water Project and AML is processing its checklist for bidding. The board gave Bell Engineering permission to advertise for bids as soon as all approvals are obtained. The Millstone Water Project line layout is now complete and plans will be submitted to the Division of Water when a tank site is selected.
Noe also said Bell Engineering representatives have spoken with R.M. Johnson Engineering concerning the interconnection with the City of Vicco Interconnect that will to serve 10 Letcher County homes impacted by mining. Bell Engineering is currently awaiting an update. Bell engineers have also met with the City of Hazard and its engineers concerning an interconnect with the Letcher and Hazard systems at Red Star to supply each system in an emergency.
Information for the Loggy Hollow Project and line extensions to side roads in Big Cowan has been submitted to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority in an attempt to secure funding. The Loggy Hollow Project has been approved by the Division of Water.
Water and Sewer District Supt. Mark Lewis reported that district employee Brian Hall has completed the final phase of his operator’s training and is now fully qualified to substitute for Lewis if he should leave or need to be absent. Lewis said it is a big advantage to the district to have two fully qualifi ed operators. He added that the district has traditionally given a person who gets an additional certification a $1-per-hour raise and recommended that Hall get the raise. The board approved the recommendation by unanimous vote. Lewis said Hall did very well on a test that has a failure rate of 60 percent.