Construction is finally scheduled to begin on a number of water projects which have been on the drawing board for the past several years in Letcher County.
The Knott County Interconnect, which is called the most important piece of all the projects by Project Engineer Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering, is now under construction. The Interconnect will supply water to the Letcher County Water District from Carr Creek Lake through the Knott County Water District and lays to rest any question funders might have about water capacity in Letcher County
Second District Magistrate Archie Banks, who attended the January Letcher County Water and Sewer District Board meeting along with Judge/Executive Jim Ward and First District Magistrate Bobby Lewis, told the board that construction equipment was in place at the Interconnect site. Caudill agreed, and added that water projects in Pine Creek, Cram Creek, Pert Creek, Elk Creek, Bull Creek, Carcassonne, Deane, and Beaver Gap will all be funded by the Bureau of Land Management’s Abandoned Mine Lands Agency, saving the county an estimated $7.9 million. Only one section in Deane in the Kite area is still under study by AML, and Caudill said it will likely be approved as well. He added that funding already obtained for the AML projects can be redirected toward other projects. Banks said that on AML-funded sites, customers will get a free connection if they agree to hook up while construction is underway. Those who wait until after the project is complete will have to pay a hook-up fee.
Judge Ward and Magistrate Lewis said they recently attended a meeting of the Cumberland City Council where they were informed that Harlan County Judge/ Executive Joe Giershop had sent the council a letter assuring it the county would install a 10-inch line from Cumberland to the county line, removing a bottleneck that caused pressure problems for Cumberland water customers near the Letcher County line and assuring Letcher County customers in the Cumberland River area the water and pressure they will need. Ward said he has sent a letter of commitment to the City of Cumberland for its approval and “it looks like it will be a go soon.”
“We’ll send that letter to the Public Service Commission to get that project underway,” said Ward. “It’s been a long time coming. Getting the bottleneck taken care of opened it up. The City if Cumberland will also send us a letter saying what they can produce.”
Ward said that although the county would still like to have a back-up source from the City of Pound, Va., the Cumberland source will allow the district to run lines all the way to the state line near Flat Gap. Board Chairman Phillip Back said that for now, the hook-up with Virginia is a dead issue, but Ward said he still thinks it would be a good idea to have a second source. Board Attorney Jamie Hatton said he has the paperwork ready any time Pound is ready to enter into a contract to sell water.
In addition to the AMLfunded projects, Caudill told the board the Garner Mountain Water Improvement Project has been approved by the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) and the Kentucky Department of Transportation and awaits the board’s directive to begin construction. The Premium/ Highway 160 project has also been approved and the board voted to let bids for Phase I. Caudill said the Premium/Highway 160 project could add about 190 customers, about one third in Phase I, and the board voted to advertise for bids to be in by February 3 for opening on February 16.
Caudill reported the Thornton Project has about $3 million approved in funding, none of which comes from loans. He said the project will be resubmitted to the DOW for approval along with letters of approval for tie-ins with the Fleming-Neon and Whitesburg systems. He said he doesn’t anticipate the district using water from either source, and in fact sees the county as a back-up for both cities if needed. However, Caudill said looping the system not only provides back-up, it also keeps water moving and removes the need to dump water to keep lines clean.
Construction on Loggy Hollow will commence upon approval of the DOW and Red Star and Ulvah have been submitted as well. Design is pending for the Millstone Project and Craft’s Colly awaits condemnation proceedings on a right-of-way for completion. Caudill told the board none of the projects about to go to construction are financed by loans, and are either grant financed or will be paid for by AML so there will be no additional debt to the county.
Magistrate Banks told the board while it has come under considerable criticism lately, the fiscal court is pleased with its work and he wanted to give the fiscal court some praise. Banks presented a list he compiled showing that from 2007 to 2010, footage for pipelines in projects that are either already complete or funded and awaiting review by DOW will increase from 228,971 at the end of 2006 to 893,332 and the number of customers will grow from 1,077 to 3,332. Judge Ward added that the Payne Gap Project, which will be administered by the City of Jenkins and is under design by Nesbitt Engineering, is also AML funded and combined with the Cumberland River Project, will put waterline footage over one million feet and push the customer base over 4,000.
The board also discussed how to make sure renters pay their tap fees and water bills. Magistrate Banks, who owns several rental properties, said he includes utility fees in his rents and Board Attorney Hatton said the landlords should be the responsible party. Board Chairman Back asked Hatton to draw up the necessary paperwork.
“When rental property is the issue, the landlord should be the responsible party,” said Hatton.
In other water board business:
• Board Attorney Hatton has the paperwork completed to purchase the site for a water tank to serve the Cumberland River area. The site is near the Eversole farm on Highway 307B. Hatton will finalize the details for a presentation at the next meeting.
• On the recommendation of Superintendent Tim Reed, the board hired Wesley Caudill as a permanent employee. Reed said Caudill has satisfactorily completed a six-month probation period. He also said the board will need to consider hiring another employee when the current projects are complete.
• The board unanimously approved the installation of a static mixer at the Blackey Water Plant. Reed said the mixer will increase capacity considerably.
• The board voted to submit a grant proposal to the Appalachian Regional Commission for the Red Star/ Ulvah/Hallie project. Benny Hamilton of the Kentucky River Area Development District said the grant could be up to $300,000.