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Landlord must pay water bill if tenant leaves owing county

Letcher County landlords whose properties get their water from the Letcher County Water and Sewer District will have to make arrangements in the future to make certain their renters don’t skip out without paying their water bills. The Board of Directors of the Water and Sewer Distinct voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for joint liability for water bills. That is, property owners will be held liable for unpaid water bills run up by their renters. It will be up to the landlord to make whatever arrangements, including adding a utility charge to rent or taking deposits for water bills with their renters.

County Attorney Jamie Hatton read the resolution at the regular meeting of the Water District Board last week that calls for joint liability and board Chairman Phillip Back said the resolution was necessary to protect the district from unscrupulous renters.

“People rent and then take off owing us for two or three months,” said Back. “We have to hold the landlords responsible.”

Board member Richard Carter agreed, saying the district has to take action to keep from getting stuck with the bills and Hatton said that up until now, there hasn’t been any means of collecting them when a renter skips out. Back added that nobody but the renter had been liable for costs up until the resolution was passed and there was nothing to prevent them from running up a high bill and leaving. Hatton also told the board that it will no longer be necessary to pay for his services since he is now the Letcher County Attorney.

The board also approved a change order to extend the scope of the Thornton Water project to add approximately two miles of line. Board Chair Back said he had been contacted by Bell Engineering with the news that there is additional money available for the project to take it as far as Gazelle Drive instead of stopping at Ray Baker Drive. The change order will add line on Phase I of the Thornton Water Project while reducing the distance necessary to complete the project in Phase II.

In other business, the board learned that the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA) has changed its formula for determining project funding and that in the future, projects will be defined as what is possible to complete with funding on hand for determining phases. Each project will be broken up by phase according to what can be accomplished. Benny Hamilton of the Kentucky River Area Development District, who works with the board to acquire and administer grants, said the new definitions won’t change overall project goals, but it will redefine how each phase is determined.

Hamilton told the board a line item of $713,000 has been included in the county’s priority list presented to the General Assembly and that it should allow for service of debts to KIA and bond debts through July 2012 with about $317,000 left over for water projects. Hamilton also told the board the weather has prevented a lot of progress on existing work and there had been no January progress meeting with engineers for that reason. He added that the number of households per mile will now be the determining factor in state allocations for extending water lines. He said the formula will come from an average of households from an entire project and not taken mile by mile.

Joe Burns of Kentucky Rural Water told the board he has met with officials of the newly formed Tri Cities Utilities Authority and he believes the newly created body that unifies the Benham, Lynch, and Cumberland water districts will vote to provide water for the Cumberland River section in Letcher County after its first meeting on February 1.

Matt Curtis and Ken Reid of Nesbitt Engineering attended the meeting to give a project report on the Payne Gap Water Project, which will extend water lines from the Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins to the Mayking Mall. Curtis gave the report and said the tie-in for the lines had been modified to hook onto existing lines near the Mayking Mall and said the project will be fully funded by Abandoned Mine Lands. Phase I will cost $3 million and will begin as soon as AML releases funding. Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering gave the Letcher County Fiscal Court a full report on the project at its January 17 meeting. An account of Nesbitt’s report appears in the January 19 edition of The Mountain Eagle.

The board voted to advertise for bids for billing and management software for the office computers as soon as funding becomes available and expressed a preference for the Master Meter software package. Board Secretary Tiffany Collins reported on financial reporting changes she has made to accommodate reports board member Billy Stamper is conducting and Stamper told the board the district is losing about $506 per day between revenue and expenditures.

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