In the next step toward obtaining a permanent water supply for Cumberland River residents in Letcher County, and for citizens of Benham and Lynch in Harlan County, Mark Lewis, Operations Manager for the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, has been named to the Regional Water Commission.
The commission will oversee an inter-county water plant to provide treated water to the three municipalities that make up the new district. At a special meeting, called in place of the regular March meeting, the Letcher County Water and Sewer District Board of Directors unanimously approved Lewis’s participation on the commission. Alan Bowman of Bell Engineering reported that the Kentucky Department of Water is reviewing plans and specifications for the project.
The commission is the result of a suggestion made October 2017 board meeting by Roger Recktenwald, Director of Research and Planning for the Kentucky Association of Counties. Recktenwald told the board that according to Chapter 74 of the Kentucky Community Water Statute, any two public utilities can come together and form a cross- -city or cross-county entity to create a water district, but the new district must contain at least two public utilities.
At that meeting, Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he had spoken with Judge Executive Dan Mosely of Harlan County and that two of the three water districts in the upper part of Harlan County, Benham and Lynch, had already conducted first readings of an ordinance to allow for the creation of the special water district in cooperation with Letcher County. At that time, the City of Cumberland was expected to join, but it later declined. The Letcher County Board approved the motion to move forward and begin the process.
Chapter 74.430, gives water districts in different cities or counties the ability to jointly acquire and construct sources to supply water when the governing body adopts a resolution to acquire and jointly operate sources to supply water. After the judge/executive has made an order creating the water commission, commissioners can be appointed to operate the district.
At the October meeting, Recktenwald told the board, “It puts you in control of your future.” He said that while funding would be the biggest step, need would be a big factor, and Letcher County still has the biggest unserved sector of potential customers that have been identified in the state. Following the meeting meeting, Judge Ward and the city councils of Benham and Lynch moved quickly to form the regional commission and take steps to secure funding.
In other business, the board learned that work is moving forward on Phase II of the Red Star, Ulvah, Hallie, and Turkey Creek Water Improvements Project. A monthly progress report was held on March 13 at the district office and future meetings are scheduled for the second Tuesday of each month at the district office. A quote from C.I. Thornburg for a flow meter for the project has been received. However, the change order to purchase it is subject to the approval of Abandoned Mine Lands.
AML has asked for a priority ranking from the LCWSD for all uncompleted projects, along with cost estimates. Alan Bowman told the board that AML has allocated additional personnel to finish studies and reports. He added that utilities in adjacent counties have been contacted about developing regional interconnects to be incorporated in the Gordon 510 Project.
The partnership agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been executed for work on the federal prison project at Roxana. The district is waiting on final approval and contract signatures. Waste load allocation reports for the prison site were sent to the Kentucky Department of Water and probable costs have been forwarded to the Kentucky River Area Development District.