Whitesburg KY

Late payers to lose water service

Customers of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District with accounts more than 60 days past due will receive letters informing them they have five days to pay their account or face being disconnected. At the May meeting of the Board of Directors, Board Chair Phillip “Pee Wee” Back told the board it could not go on with what Commissioner Billy Stamper estimated as an average of $10,000 per month in delinquent accounts. Back said he wanted to move forward with collection procedures, but added that he would consult with Board Attorney Jamie Hatton on writing off some delinquents that date back as far as 2003. Hatton was absent from the meeting while waiting for his son to be born at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital on Thursday evening.

The board discussed advice from Accountant Chris Gooch to write off a number of accounts which were essentially uncollectable for the purposes of future audits, but failed to reach a decision on how to handle accounts from former customers who left without paying their bill and no longer live in the district’s service area. Board Secretary Tiff any Collins told the board that Gooch had recommended the move as a way to clean up the audit, but Back said he preferred to hand the list over to Attorney Hatton for collection and to take aggressive action to collect as much of the district’s money as possible before writing anything off .

In other business, Benny Hamilton of the Kentucky River Area Development District told the board that Judge/Executive Jim Ward had told him the county will press to see that $177,000 left over from the aborted Blackey Sewer Plant Project will be added to the district’s budget and that the money will be available for making debt service bond payments on loans with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. Hamilton said these are unrestricted funds and can be used for the bond payments due on June 1.

Hamilton also reported that the Appalachian Regional Commission has requested a full grant proposal for the Highway 160 Water Project. He said the fact that the ARC had accepted the preliminary grant and asked for the full grant was a good sign that it would be funded. Hamilton said he would know sometime in July, but said the project can’t be presented as a change order and will require a $125,000 match. He said the district should be able to pay the matching funds from coal severance funds allocated by the state that are no longer needed for several projects because Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) has accepted them for funding.

Hamilton told the board he has spoken to representatives of the Cumberland Valley Area Development District to see if they can do anything to expedite arranging an agreement between the City of Cumberland and the District for Cumberland to supply water to the Cumberland River area in Letcher County. He said the Harlan County Fiscal Court would like to do the project but that Cumberland has some issues with capacity and is interested in leaving room for growth.

Superintendent Tim Reed said an agreement with the Wise County Water District is no closer to completion, but added that the Wise County engineer is trying to obtain funding to upgrade the Wise County plant that would serve the Cumberland River area. Reed said if the Wise County District gets the funding, he has been told it will sign an agreement so that construction from a site where the district can connect to the Wise County source can begin. Reed said the Wise County District has an agreement to commit 400,000 gallons per day to the City of Norton and although Norton doesn’t always need that much, the agreement calls for that amount to be held in reserve. Reed said he had also spoken with the system manager in Cumberland, who said the mayor has been asked to sign a letter to get the project started on the Cumberland end, but the mayor was out of town. He said he had attempted to get in touch several times since but was unsuccessful.

Jamie Noe of Bell Engineering told the board that AML has suggested moving things around a bit on the Pine Creek/Pert Creek Water Project so some line footage could be added, and said construction on the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/Cram Creek Project should commence in July 2011. Back said he has received a number of calls from residents of the areas and asked if funding could be moved forward, but Noe said it is likely that funds will not be available until next summer.

Construction continues on the Knott County Interconnect, which will supply the needs of the rest of the county, and the project at Garner Mountain is ready to begin at the district’s directive. The Loggy Hollow project is ready for construction as soon as funding becomes available and the Premium, Highway 160, Thornton, and Red Star/ Ulvah/ Hallie projects are ready for submission for construction upon approval of the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

In addition to the Pine Creek, Pert Creek, and Cram Creek projects, Elk Creek, Bull Creek, and Carcassonne are waiting on notifi- cation the timing of AML’s funding arrangements. The Millstone Water project design work is continuing, as is the design phase of the Deane/Beaver Gap Water Project.

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