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Fleming-Neon ‘holding its own’ despite drought

The City of Fleming-Neon is “holding its own” with drought conditions and water levels in the city’s two wells are slowly inching upward, according to Water Department Superintendent Carlos Phillips.

Phillips told the Fleming- Neon City Council at its December meeting that thanks to a rainy autumn and voluntary conservation measures taken by water customers, the city’s water supply is making a comeback, even if it is slow.

Phillips also told the council that ground water mentioned in last month’s meeting is not coming from city sources and is not treated water leaking from city water lines. Phillips said that water department workers carry a “pill” that reveals the presence of chlorine in water and every time they see water pooling on the ground they check to see if chlorine is present. Since chlorine is only present in treated water, its presence would reveal a water leak and chlorine has not been detected in any of the water which has been detected pooling on the surface. Phillips said the water probably comes from several artesian wells in the city, some of which seem to have water even in the worst droughts. Council member Cheryl Furby said the considerable presence of surface water in front of the service station in town had concerned her along with a number of citizens and she is glad to learn it wasn’t coming from leaks.

Phillips also told the council that Kentucky Rural Water workers have helped water department workers narrow down some of the leaks which have recently caused an increase in water losses. Phillips said that KRW had been unable to get to Neon before Thanksgiving week, but with their help, the water department has managed to clear several areas to determine they do not have leaks and he believes the leaks are somewhere in the McRoberts area. He said it is likely there are several smaller leaks rather than one large one.

Phillips said KRW uses a listening device which is placed over valves to determine leaks and it is not reliable if there is a lot of background noise, such as high winds. By shutting off certain sections of line during the late night hours when water use is at its lowest, the listening device can determine if a section of line served by a particular valve is leaking. He said the process takes a good deal of time and is frustrating due to other noise interfering with the device. He also said absenteeism and illnesses have kept the water department shorthanded and made it more difficult to devote workers to finding leaks.

“It’s a time consuming thing,” said Phillips. “We have to listen to every meter. We have three leaks, maybe less. I can’t say for sure until it’s narrowed down more. I don’t think we have a major leak.”

Phillips also told the council that problems with hard water come from calcium in the water and there isn’t much that can be done for it. He said that when the water supply gets low, the calcium problem, which can damage water heaters, washing machines, and water fixtures, gets worse due to an increased presence of minerals in the water supply.

The council also welcomed Castlewood, Va., businessman Dennis Porter to the meeting. Mayor Susie Polis said Porter had contacted her earlier and expressed an interest in locating one or more businesses in the city. Porter told the council he owns several businesses in southern states, including a restaurant in South Carolina, and that his family was in the process of getting out of the trucking business after 30 years. He said he had looked at several neighboring communities and had determined that Neon had the best combination of location, need, and available space in which to locate a business.

Porter said he would like to locate a hardware store in the old Hazen Building if it becomes available and possibly open a restaurant as well. He said that neither of those needs is currently being met in the city. He also said if he locates in Neon, he will work with the city council to obtain grant funding to help repair some of the dilapidated buildings and empty storefronts that plague the city. He cautioned the council that whether he opens a business in town or not, the empty buildings with collapsed roofs are extremely dangerous as fire hazards and their proximity to each other could create a domino effect that might result in a burned out city. Mayor Polis and the council said they would be happy to cooperate with Porter if he has a solid proposal.

In other business, Mayor Polis read a letter from the Kentucky Department of Transportation informing the city that it will lose $12,000 in highway funding if they do not identify one or more streets to be paved and provide estimates and other information by December 30. Polis said the letter concerns funds that were appropriated last year but have not been used. She said will see that the state’s conditions are met.

Polis also told the council she had received a letter from Inter Mountain Cable warning her that the Floyd County-based cable TV company, which services Fleming-Neon and Jenkins, may lose several regional broadcast channels in the coming year. The channels which may be lost are WSAZ (NBC, Channel 3) of Huntington, W.Va., WCYB (NBC, Channel 5) of Bristol, Tenn., WJHL, (CBS, Channel 11) of Johnson City, Tenn., WOWK (CBS, Channel 13) of Charleston, W.Va., and WKPT (ABC, Channel 19) of Kingsport, Tenn.

The council also:

· voted to set the site and date for the city’s Christmas party for employees and families at City Hall on December 11.

· voted to participate with the Fleming-Neon Volunteer Fire Department and the Neon Days Festival Committee to each pay one-third of the cost for gift bags for the Christmas Parade which will be held on December 20 at 6:00 PM.

· voted to allow City Clerk Janice Banks to purchase QuickBooks accounting software for city finances.

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