If the state Division of Abandoned Mine Lands and other agencies that provide funding to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District agree, broadband Internet service could be provided to underserved areas of Letcher County when water lines are being extended, members the Water and Sewer District Board of Directors were told.
Harry Collins, chairman of the Letcher County Broadband Board, suggested adding the fiber optic cable with water lines in Phase II of the Red Star, Hallie, and Turkey Creek Water Project, and said that the same people on Turkey Creek who are underserved in treated water are also underserved in broadband.
Collins told the board at its November meeting that if it was possible to run two-inch lines to enclose the fiber optic cable that carries the broadband signal, it could save the broadband board almost $63,000 a mile in installation expenses. Collins said the only thing the contractors would need to do is to install lines to the surface at every fire hydrant to allow the fiber optic cable to be pulled through. He said the cost to hang the line alongside telephone cable on poles is $65,000 a mile, against a cost of $2,600 a mile if it can be laid alongside the water lines.
Water and Sewer District Manager Mark Lewis told Collins the district would need to get approval from AML before making any commitment to the Broadband Board, and Alan Bowman of Bell Engineering added that the AML has already approved funding the project at Turkey Creek and said that the mandate of AML is to replace drinking water in areas that have been impacted by coal mining. Bowman said this doesn’t mean AML might not be agreeable to allowing twoinch line to be laid alongside the water lines, but that the requirements for water line and fiber optic cable will probably be different.
Bowman also said that AML has approved advertising the Turkey Creek Project for bid and that it is not likely it will want to make any changes at this late date. However, Bowman and Lewis said they would not oppose running fiber optic lines alongside water lines in the future if AML approves.
In other business, Hazard accountant Chris Gooch attended the board meeting to present the audit for the year ending December 31, 2016. Gooch said that the audit included opinion letters and financial statement letters and that his firm had found no control deficiencies or material issues in the audit. He said the district has about $25 million in assets, primarily infrastructure (water line), and a debt of $2.4 million. He said it is currently breaking even on its water sales and payments are being made by county water customers. The district has submitted a request to raise rates to the Kentucky Public Service Commission and a final rate will be set when PSC approval is affirmed.
Bowman gave the Engineering Report for Bell Engineering, and said that the Turkey Creek, Red Star, Hallie Project requires authorization to proceed from the board to finalize the bidding process. The board voted unanimously to proceed with the work and award a bid. Bowman said he expects to advertise for bids after Thanksgiving and open them in December.
The district has agreed to assist in the formation of a regional commission with the Tri City Area in Harlan County (Cumberland, Benham, and Lynch) to provide for a stable water supply for the Cumberland River Area in Letcher County and the Tri Cities districts. A progress meeting is scheduled for the first week in December.
District representatives met with a representative of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the owner of the property affected by the water project for the prison to discuss transferring the property. Bowman said the property owner is agreeable, and the process is ongoing. Bell Engineering has sent in the required paperwork to the Bureau for the district to request funding for water and sewer work.
The Kentucky Department of Water has forwarded paperwork to the district for a Corrective Action Plan to address the situation with small amounts of toxins gathering in water lines in areas that have low flow. Monitoring will begin on the effective date of the agreement and must be conducted in 30-day increments.
The board voted to provide its customary Christmas Employee Incentive for district employees. Full-time employees will receive a $500 bonus and part-time employees will receive $250.