The company managing the City of Whitesburg’s waterworks is calling on city officials to raise monthly rates for customers.
Veolia Water regional manager John Stallard approached the Whitesburg City Council at its May meeting Tuesday night to ask about an overdue bill of more than $500,000 the city owes Veolia for operating the city’s water and sewer systems. Stallard said the city has not made a regular $83,000 monthly operating payment to Veolia in four months, adding that after a $100,000 loan the city sought to pay off an outstanding balance to Veolia fell through, the city stopped making payments of $28,000 a month on the outstanding balance about a year ago. City Clerk Garnett Sexton said the city also had not been able to pay the interest on the debt.
“You have told us what we already knew,” Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft told Stallard.
“We can’t continue to go in this direction,” said Stallard. “Your water rates aren’t covering your costs.”
Stallard said Veolia has conducted a survey of regional water rates and found that Whitesburg’s rates are substantially lower than the average for nearby cities. He urged the council to consider raising rates to make it possible for the city to meet its obligations and pay off the outstanding debts. Stallard, who opened the meeting by saying “don’t shoot the messenger,” said he does not like to be the bearer of such bad news but has little choice in the matter.
“I get chewed out every week,” said Stallard.
Craft told Stallard he has a call in to the Kentucky Public Service Commission about a request the city made to raise water rates. Craft said he expects to hear from the PSC in the next “couple of weeks” concern ing the question of whether the city can raise rates to city customers inside and outside the city as well as raising rates on bulk sales to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District.
“I expect we will be raising revenue when we get the report,” said Craft.
“The goal (of the payment plan) was to have everything paid for by November 2011,” said Stallard. “But now you’re worse off.”
“What do you want us to say?” replied Craft.
“I wish we had a magic wand to fix it,” said Stallard.
“I don’t just hang the phone up and not worry about it anymore,” said Craft, referring to conversations he has with Stallard about the matter. “But it’s best to wait on the report and see what we can do.”
In a related mater, Craft asked Stallard about the city’s earlier request that Veolia use a camera mounted on a fiber optic cable to determine if a city sewer line has collapsed. Stallard said the camera had revealed a collapsed sewer line, but that local Veolia manager Todd Adams would have to inform the council about the location of the line. Stallard said he was filling in for Adams at Tuesday’s meeting.
In other business, the council gave Craft permission to negotiate a right of way agreement with Kinzer Drilling of Floyd County to install a natural gas line on cityowned property to carry gas from a Kinzer-owned well to the boiler room at Whitesburg ARH hospital.
Kinzer representative Elmon Walters told the council he was back to see if an agreement could be reached. Craft said he had spoken with Walters about one part of the agreement he had concerns about that would allow lines to be run above ground. Craft said the lines would have to be buried on city property. Craft said that if he and Walters do reach an agreement it will be presented to the council for approval.
Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation CEO Mike Caudill and his son Lee Michael Caudill approached the council to ask for approval to hold the Heritage
2K11 Modern Truck Show September 9-11. Caudill told the council the annual Whitesburg show is the largest in Kentucky and has attracted a large national following. He said the show will have an international element this year with a visit from the editor of Japan’s “Truck Trends” magazine.
Caudill said this year’s show will also include the unveiling of new versions of several trucks. He showed an artist’s rendering of a truck owned by former “Mini- Trucks Magazine” editor Mike Alexander, who will lead a caravan of 30 mini-trucks from Maryland to Whitesburg on US 119 to unveil the new truck.
The council voted unanimously to provide the city’s customary support, including using the Whitesburg Police Department for crowd control and authorizing police to lead the trucks in a Friday evening parade and “burnout” event. The city will also allow campers to camp in a city-owned area behind Food City and to use showers at the Whitesburg swimming pool.
In his monthly report to the council, Craft said the city has received a request from the National Weather Service to establish a weather station in Whitesburg. Craft said the station will not cost the city anything except for the donation of land for the site and a fence to protect it. Craft said the station will greatly benefit residents of Whitesburg and Letcher County with up to the minute weather information. Craft said he has also spoken with representatives of cable television provider TVS, who told him they will make arrangements to carry the information locally.
Craft also reported that the city has been awarded a grant for $150,000 from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority to enlarge the city’s water line running up Solomon Creek. He added that he and Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who is working with the city on several projects, had received a verbal commitment from the Kentucky Department of Water that the city will receive money that was mistakenly allocated to “somewhere else” (Jenkins).