The Whitesburg City Council voted unanimously to raise water rates by $7.90 per month for customers at its April meeting.
The purchase of new Mueller “radio-read” water meters for the entire city customer base and the necessity of rehabilitating the city water system have made the increase necessary.
The increase will help pay for the $193,558 cost of the meters, which will be financed for a period of ten years with semi-annual payments of $21,878. The meters will save the city on man-hours worked by allowing the meter reading to be done by driving by them with a laptop or a handheld device rather than reading each meter individually by hand. They will also make water usage rates much more accurate and help to prevent mistakes.
The other reason for the rate increase is that funders will demand that the city raise rates before they will provide funding for the water system to be rehabilitated.
Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who works with the city on infrastructure issues, told the council at a previous meeting that funders will want to be sure the city can service loans, and water rates haven’t been raised in recent memory. In neighboring cities, the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority has mandated rate increases before it approved loans.
The subject of the rate increase was the result of a presentation by the low bidder, Consolidated Pipe Company of Debord. Nick Hays and Eddie Brewer of Consolidated Pipe and Brian Matteson of Mueller visited the council to answer questions about the system and give warranty and service information. At a special meeting in February, a committee consisting of Councilman John Pellegrini, City Manager Chris Caudill, Assistant City Clerk Donna Perkins, and City Clerk Jessica Keene was named to consider bids, and at last month’s meeting, the committee recommended accepting the bid from Consolidated Pipe for $193,558. At that time, Mayor James Wiley Craft asked Chris Caudill to contact the representatives of Consolidated Pipe and Mueller to attend the next council meeting to inform the council about warranty and service provisions and answer any questions the council may have.
Brian Matteson told the council that his company and Consolidated Pipe will conduct onsite training for city workers in the use of the meters and the software. He also said the radios have a 20-year warranty, with 10-year replacement and pro-rated replacement fees for 10 years, which he said is the industry standard. Other equipment is guaranteed as well. Matteson also said his company offers a free maintenance agreement for the first year, and a service agreement for $2,080 a year afterward.
Consolidated Pipe Meter Specialist Eddie Brewer said he lives in Richmond, and will be on hand as soon as possible to answer any concerns the city may have. Nick Hays of Consolidated Pipe lives in Letcher County and will be close by as well.
Mayor Craft said the council will try to have a special called meeting to finalize the agreement within two weeks. He said he will not allow the city to be rushed into anything, referencing issues from a contract with Veolia Water that had a bad ending for the city. Craft said it is his responsibility as mayor to be certain the city isn’t getting into anything that will cause problems.
In other business, a committee of local people representing the Levitt Amp Music Series presented a short program to inform the council about this year’s Levitt Amp Series. Steve Ruth, the coordinator of the series, told the council that this is the second year the Levitt Foundation has approved Whitesburg as a recipient of funding for the series, and said it is a project of the Cowan Community Center. Ruth said the city’s support was vital in making last year’s series successful. He added that Middlesboro is in its fifth year as a Levitt Amp city. He said this year, Middlesboro received a three-year grant and doesn’t have to re-apply.
The performances will be held at the Mountain Heritage Stage in Whitesburg at the entry to the KY 15 bypass.
In order of appearance, the performers include rising country music start Kaitlyn Baker of Pound, Va., on May 30. Baker is considered one of Nashville’s brightest young singer/songwriters. On June 6, La Misa Negra, a seven-piece cumbia and Afro Latin music band from Oakland Calif., will appear, and The Ethan Jodziewicz group will perform on June 13. Jodziewicz is a leading session bass player and is highly sought after for session recording work. The Ethan Jodziewicz Group is a fusion jazz group that also explores free improvisation.
Pop/ soul group The New Respects will play on June 20. The group plays pop, soul, and rock with acoustic tones. The New Respects were chosen by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top ten acts to watch in 2019. The faculty of the Cowan Music School will play old-time and Appalachian music on June 27. Added diversity will come from Farah Siraj on guitar. Known as the country of Jordan’s Music Ambassadress, Siraj has a musical career that spans the United States, Europe, and the Middle East that has taken her to the UN Nobel Prize Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Lincoln Center. Siraj will perform on July 11. Roots and rockabilly icon Webb Wilder will appear on July 18. Wilder’s 1968 debut album, “It Came from Nashville”, was named as one of the 50 best Southern Rock albums of all time by Paste Magazine in 2018.
The Lexington Philharmonic will return with a performance of classical music on July 25. Ruth said the Philharmonic was one of the most requested returning acts. Blues and American performer Samantha Fish will play on August 1. Fish is a rising star in the blues world and has developed a reputation as a guitar hero as well. Dave Eggar and Holler Jake, another highly requested returning act, will finish the series out on August 8. Eggar has recorded with Ralph Stanley, YoYo Ma, and Nirvana. All the shows are free and each performance will also have an opening act.