Whitesburg KY

Fleming-Neon water supply still running short

The Fleming-Neon City Council heard good news and bad news concerning its water situation. Water Department Superintendent Carlos Phillips told the council that although the water level is constant and gaining slightly, the city is still facing a water shortage.

“We’re holding our own,” said Phillips. “It’s gaining a little, but nothing to brag about. We’re not out of the woods yet. It will be a long haul to get out of this drought. Harlan County and Letcher County are still listed as drought counties.”

Phillips also told the council that loss of treated water was up slightly over the past two months, from 27 percent in December to 33 percent in January. He said water department workers have not been able to locate the source of the leaks. After hearing this, council member Karen Hall expressed her doubts about enacting strict water conservation measures in the city.

“We’re losing 79,000 gallons a day,” said Hall. “Yet we’re getting ready to enact an ordinance to fine people for wasting water.”

“We’re not intentionally wasting it,” replied Phillips.

Phillips explained that due to the dry weather, water leaking from city pipes is absorbed into the ground instead of coming to the surface where it can be easily located. He told Hall that a “listening device” is not foolproof and only works near valves. Phillips said the city has over 50 valves on the main line and some do not close completely because the valves haven’t been used, or “exercised.” Phillips said that water would have to be turned off for most of the day in order to check the valves and to replace faulty ones. Hall said that in light of the ongoing water shortage, the water department should take whatever measures are necessary to eliminate as many leaks as possible.

“We have to fix it some way,” said Hall. “Is 2.5 million gallons (estimated monthly loss to leaks) a lot of water? To me that’s a lot of water.”

Phillips told the council it would cost from $500 to $600 each to fix the largest valves and that it would require an additional $125 to $300 to attach leak detectors to them. He said the work can be done over a period of time so the department can absorb the costs without having to borrow funds from the city council. Phillips told the council the water department will put together a plan to address the leaks. Hall told Phillips she did not mean to criticize his performance or that of water department workers, but it troubled her to impose penalties on water customers when the city is losing water at the current rate. She said she has done everything she can personally do to conserve water, including taking her laundry to a laundromat instead of doing it at home and she hopes others in the city are conserving water as well.

The council also voted to adopt two resolutions to expedite the Haymond Sewer Project. Eddie Brown, project engineer with Kenvirons, introduced both. The first is for environmental mitigation, which is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency. The second is to accept a $350,000 loan from RD. The council passed both resolutions unanimously.

In the Police Report, Police Chief Henry Day told the council that the police department has obtained a new Dodge Charger police cruiser through a state grant and it will be delivered next week fully equipped with lights and other equipment. The council also approved the purchase of scrambled radios for both cruisers. Day said the scrambled radios would be unintelligible on a police scanner. He also reported that new Glock .40 caliber sidearms, which were approved last year, had arrived earlier that day. Mayor Susie Polis asked Day if the department has other needs and Day said it only needs new Class A uniforms.

In other business:

• The council voted unanimously to accept a 1991 Explorer from the Fleming-Neon Volunteer Fire Department for use by the water department.

• The council discussed the possibility of giving the Hazen Building to an unnamed nonprofit organization for its use, but no decision was reached.

• Council member David Vanover reported that a beaver dam could cause water to get into the road in Fleming. Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward told Mayor Polis the county would send an excavator over to tear the dam down to prevent flooding. Vanover also asked the council to begin levying fines on East Letcher Ministries for its failure to properly clean up the parking lot at its headquarters in the old A&P building.

• Judge Ward also told the council that the county will conduct another tire amnesty in the spring so county residents can get rid of old tires.

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