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City renews pact with Veolia Water

Customers with delinquent bills will be disconnected after 90 days


The Whitesburg City Council voted unanimously this week to extend the city’s contract for water and sewer services with Veolia Water at a price of $967,000 per year.

The vote came Tuesday night after Mayor James Wiley Craft told the council that he had spoken with Veolia officials and asked that the contract period be changed from five to two years before the city has the option to opt out of the agreement. Craft said the two-year deal gave the city some breathing room.

“I’d like to offer a little legal advice,” said Craft, who is also a practicing attorney. “I believe I’m authorized to do that now. The remedy for breaking a contract is to sue the body that breaks the contract. So if we cannot make the payments, they can only sue us for two years.”

The council also voted unanimously to raise the cost of water they sell to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District from $2.90 per 1,000 gallons to $3.53 per 1,000 gallons. Mayor Craft told the council that the $3.53 amount represents the city’s cost ($3.43 per 1,000) plus ten cents. He said the “Band-Aid” of raising the county’s costs plus tightening up collection of delinquent water bills should allow the city to meet its obligations with Veolia.

Craft also told the council that the approximate seven million gallons per month the city sells the county goes primarily to the Cowan area and he is aware that once the Knott County Interconnect comes online, Cowan will be supplied from Carr Creek Lake. He said this entered into his thinking when he asked Veolia to reduce the contract period from five to two years.

In a related matter, the council voted last week to disconnect customers who are 90 days or more past due in paying their accounts beginning Nov. 1. The action came at a special called meeting Oct. 20 and was the result of the negotiations for the new contract with Veolia.

The council voted unanimously to disconnect 90-day delinquents but split on the time frame. Council members John Williams and Freda McFall voted against the Nov. 1 date while Jimmy Bates, Robin Bowen- Watco and Sheila Short voted for it. Larry Everidge was absent from the meeting. Accounts which are disconnected will not be reconnected for at least 34 hours.

The vote was part of a plan to tighten up collections and reduce costs for the water system as the city faced a decision to accept or decline the contract with Veolia.

In other water and sewer business, the council voted to authorize Craft to enter into negotiations with Summit Engineering for Phase I of a sewer system project for Craft’s Colly. The $2.5 million dollar first phase of the project will help to alleviate raw sewage coming from Craft’s Colly, where a number of straight pipes are still in use.

Kevin Howard of Summit Engineering told the council that Summit had asked for funding through the federal stimulus package but did not receive it. However, a PRIDE grant was approved and he said it could be used for seed money and matching funds. Howard said no charge will be made to the city until a funding package is in place.


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