Whitesburg KY

Judge urges water board to recruit new customers

Questions about hiring parttime workers, replacing antiquated billing software, collecting past due accounts, and adding new customers to enhance operations all came up at the July meeting of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District.

Board Chairman Phillip “Pee Wee” Back also used the meeting to issue a statement defending the quality of water coming from the Knott County Water District through the “Knott County Interconnect,” which has been in operation since late last year. Back said he was aware that complaints were made about the water and said he wanted to assure the public that the quality of the water is up to standard.

“ I heard some negative reports about water being bad at the other end of the county,” said Back. “I want to assure you the water is tested every day, tested by independent labs. They have good water.”

While Back didn’t identify the source of the negative reports, Gary Rogers, chief of the Letcher Fire and Rescue Department, told the Letcher Fiscal Court at its June meeting that water coming from hydrants in the lower end of the county had been very dirty. Rogers said the department had gotten several bad loads of water to fill swimming pools and were full of silt.

The board also learned from Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward that $38,000 is left from a state Department of Local Government administered grant and can be spent to replace antiquated billing software currently in use.

The question of the software came up when board member Billy Stamper asked secretary Tiffany Collins about the end of the month final balance after paying bills. Stamper said he was interested in seeing how much the district would collect if everyone actually paid their bills rather than the actual amount collected, but Collins said the current software will not generate those reports, or others she would like to have.

Stamper said it is important to be able to have past due totals included in monthly reports to the board and to be able to look at both sides of the balance sheet each month. Collins said that when all the month’s bills are paid, the district will have $9,617, but added that if all the customers actually paid their bills on time the district would be in good shape.

“We need to see monthly revenue,” said Stamper. “Actual and what it should have been.”

Back said an up-to-date disconnect list is in the office. Collins said if the disconnects were made more people would pay their bills. She said the current software makes that, along with other aspects of financial reporting, difficult.

“It’s old and out of date,” said Collins. “It won’t do what we need it to do”

Collins said the new software package costs just under $20,000. Ward said it should take four to six weeks before the funds become available.

Back also brought up the diffi culty of hiring part-time workers to perform disconnects and remove unused water meters from barrels installed during pipeline construction. Back said that most applicants are looking for fulltime work and are not interested in part-time. “They just laugh at you,” said Back. Ward said he has a number of applications from people seeking work with the county and would send them to Back.

Bell Engineering representative Jamie Noe told the board the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority has been asked to approve a change order for work at Thornton which will take water lines from the intersection of Gazelle Drive and Mississippi Drive on Thornton Creek all the way to Sergent Drive, with the lines also extending from the Thornton Post Office to homes on the opposite side of KY 1862. She said the lines will stop on Sergent Loop at Sergent Drive.

Noe also reported that work on Beetree Branch portion of the Highway 160/Premium Project is complete. She said the contractor is now installing water lines along Highway 160 and will probably reach its intersection with Highway 15 sometime this week.

Noe reported that railroad bores under CSX rails remain to be done to allow line-laying activity to be completed along Route 7 in the Red Star/Ulva/Hallie Project. In response to a question from board member Bernard Watts, Noe said the CSX inspector was supposed to be back on site in two weeks. She added that assuming he does indeed come back in two weeks, the people in the affected area may have water in a month or two.

Noe told the board that the project waterline layout is now complete for the Deane Water Project and that Division of Abandoned Mine Lands has committed $1 million to the project for this year. She said Phase I has been submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water and the Department of Highways for approval and the project will advertise for bids as soon as the approvals are received.

Back said Deane Mining has given the district permission to cross its property to extend lines for 2,500 feet. Back said this will eliminate the need to cross CSX rail lines and will also allow for the installation of two meters for the mining company’s use. Back said Deane Mining is anxious to have water service and its engineers have worked with Bell Engineering to expedite Department of Water approval.

Tank sites have been submitted to the Department of Water for the Pert Creek/Pine Creek/ Project Creek Project and await approval. Abandoned Mine Lands has approved $3 million for Phase I for this year.

Judge Ward asked if lines on the Red Star Project will extend to houses all the way to the end of Old Dixon Road and Noe said they would. Bernard Watts told Ward that some homes in Carcassonne are desperate for water and that the elevation of the area made alternatives difficult. Ward said he was aware of the need and wants to be sure to get water to all of them. He also said he and District One Magistrate Bobby Howard are planning to attend a meeting with “the Cumberland people” about getting water from Cumberland to Letcher County residents in the Cumberland River area.

“It’s just a matter of when they get their lines fixed so they can get water there,” said Ward.

Ward said he and Howard will meet with members of the Cumberland City Council to determine when lines running from Cumberland will be rehabbed to the point they can carry the necessary water to supply the Letcher County residents.

Ward also suggested that the board make a real effort to recruit new customers in places where lines have already been laid. He said that people who already have water service and are satisfied with it will be the best ambassadors to speak with their neighbors about the advantages of hooking onto the lines.

Ward said that when you consider the cost of renting a water filtration system, monthly salt purchases and potassium for the filtration system, and the cost of purchasing drinking water, the county system is a bargain. At least, he said, it had worked out that way for his home and others he knows.

The board also voted to extend a two-percent pay raise to district workers to be compatible with the two-percent raise granted recently to county employees.

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