The Letcher County Water and Sewer District has voted to lodge a protest with the Kentucky Public Service Commission over a planned raise in the price of water the City of Whitesburg sells to the district. At its regular meeting on November 19, the board voted to direct Board Attorney Jamie Hatton to file the protest after board members complained that the increase was too steep and would pose a hardship to their customer base.
The increase was announced at a special-called meeting of the Whitesburg City Council on October 27 in response to the council’s decision to extend its contract with Veolia Water at a cost of $967,000 per year to the city. Veolia has run the city’s water and sewer services for 10 years and the recent contract is the result in higher costs for chemicals, laboratory fees, and maintenance, as well as higher costs for the city’s new higher-capacity sewer plant.
The city had sold water to the district for $2.90 per 1,000 gallons since they entered into their original contract, but at the October 27 meeting, the city raised the cost to $3.53 per 1,000 gallons. Mayor James Wiley Craft said the cost increase reflected the city’s cost of $3.43 per 1,000 gallons plus a 10- cent profit margin.
Whitesburg Veolia Manager Todd Adams told Craft the city had sustained considerable losses by selling seven million gallons of water per month to the county at $2.90 per 1,000 gallons, and Craft added that the bulk of the city’s water sales go to the Cowan area which will be serviced by the Knott County Interconnect when it is completed. The county recently entered into an agreement with the Knott County Water District to supply water to Letcher County for $3 per 1,000 gallonS when the Interconnect comes online.
The Knott County Interconnect has been approved by the Kentucky Division of Water, and Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering told the board that Stotts Construction Inc. of Columbia had placed the low bid of $899,382.20. The recommendation to award the bid to Stotts has been submitted to the Public Service Commission, said Caudill. He said the project could begin construction as soon as December 10. Caudill suggested the board schedule a pre-construction conference with Stotts so the project can start as soon as possible.
Caudill also told the board the static mixer for the Blackey Water Plant has been approved and will be installed. He also said the Kentucky Department of Transportation still has not finished condemnation procedures on the Wright property on Copperhead Road and there is some concern over the possibility of the makeshift pipe running along the bridge freezing this winter. He said the pipe may need to be insulated since there are only a few customers and they don’t generate a lot of flow.
The Thornton Water Project layout is also complete and will be submitted to the Kentucky Department of Water. Caudill said it should go to bid around the first of the year along with the Premium/ Red Star Project. He also told the board the Millstone Water Project will require additional funding and Board Chair Phillip Back suggested breaking the project into phases so it can begin as soon as possible. Caudill said several more projects will go to bid early next year as well.
Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward told the board he has spoken with Harlan County Judge/ Executive Joe Grieshop, who told him that Harlan County is working on a letter to the PSC to get underway with the line extension to allow the City of Cumberland to supply water to the Cumberland River area in Letcher County. Ward said Grieshop told him Letcher County could go ahead and start on its end.
Judge Ward also said the Knott County Water District wants to be able to serve the Redfox area and asked the Letcher County District to connect with it there as well as the original Knott County Interconnect. Caudill said there is enough funding left over from the Knott County Interconnect to run an eight-inch line from Garner Mountain.
In other business, the board voted to formally hire Jamie Hatton as board attorney at a retainer of $250 per month. District Employee Brian Hall received a $1 per hour raise after completing his Class Two Operator’s License, and the board voted to allow for the direct deposit of employee paychecks if they wish to participate.
Benny Hamilton of the Kentucky River Area Development District made a presentation for administrative services and the board voted unanimously to enter into a contractual arrangement on a project-by-project basis for KRADD to handle administrative and grant proposal writing services. Steve Caudill told the board that having KRADD handle grant proposals and administration would accelerate the process of moving the county forward by helping to obtain funding as well as filing reports and pay schedules.
Board Chairman Back also said that Secretary Tiffany Collins has issued notices of delinquent accounts to customers in Jeremiah, Isom, and Little Cowan. Collins said customers who have already received notices are coming in to pay their accounts to avoid getting disconnected.