By now, most water customers in the Fleming Neon area have their water service back to normal, but it didn’t happen without an extraordinary effort that involved the Fleming-Neon Water Department and a number of organizations and individuals who pitched in to help.
At a special meeting of the Fleming-Neon City Council November 3, Water Director Chris Banks told the council that everyone in the city water district should have some water pressure by about 10 p.m. that night.
Banks said the reason for the loss of water service involved the failure of a small pump and the main pump, and a back-up source in Tom Biggs Hollow in McRoberts that went dry because of increased usage.
Banks said that thanks to Funk Drilling of Coeburn, and to Mark Lewis and the Letcher County Water and Sewer District (LCWSD), along with the efforts of the Fleming-Neon Volunteer Fire Department, the Jenkins VFD, Mayking VFD, and Sandlick VFD, all of which hauled water continuously to a cistern in the Tom Biggs neighborhood, the water level there which is usually fed by water from a mine, had risen close to the usable level. Funk Drilling ran a pipe that bypassed the main pump which had failed, and the LCWSD turned on the tank that feeds down from the Deane area into Goose Creek and the fire departments also filled their tanks there. Banks and Polis also thanked Third District Magistrate Woody Holbrook, Boggs Municipal, Nesbitt Engineering, Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest, and offered special thanks to the citizens of Fleming-Neon and the water customers.
Mayor Susie Polis said she wanted to extend her personal thanks as well as that of the city to Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, who she said had gone above and beyond in helping the city to get things back to normal. She also praised the efforts of water department and other city workers and said that Chris Banks had gone without sleep for over 24 hours, staying on the job constantly to resolve the situation.
The entire council also thanked Kentucky Local Government Economic Development Assistance Commissioner Sandy Dunahoo, who had traveled to the city earlier that day to present a $1 million check from a Community Development Block Grant for the renovation of the city’s water plant.
Kentucky River Area Development District Community (KRADD) Resources Planner Angelia Smith- Hall told the council that Dunahoo also discussed other funding that will be made available to the city, and said she will work with KRADD to make it possible for Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA) funds to be used to pay for the purchase of a new 25-horsepower pump to replace the smaller one that went down last week.
All in all, Fleming-Neon will receive $3 million in grants and loans, including a $1.5 million loan from the KIA’s Drinking Water State Recovery Fund. Smith-Hall said that half that amount, $750,000, will be forgiven. The loan will be extended at a rate of 2.5 percent, so the city will have $3 million to rehabilitate the water system and will only pay back $750,000. Angela Smith-Hall also said that the city has been invited to apply for a full grant with the Appalachian Regional Commission for the other funds and Commissioner Dunahoo has said she will stand by the application.
In response to a question about the timeline from Councilman James D. Collins, Smith-Hall said that while she and Commissioner Dunahoo will work to expedite funding, the requirements under which the funders operate require a 45-60 day process that includes reviews of plans, an environmental survey, and other steps. However, she said that if some of the KIA funds are approved earlier, some of the project may be able to go to bid in December.
Mayor Polis also asked citizens of Fleming-Neon and water customers to be sure to call 606-855-7916 if they have water problems after hours or on weekends. She said that the city employee who is on call will take their call and contact the proper authorities. In a related matter, Project Engineer Ken Reid of Nesbitt Engineering, who reported on the Fleming-Neon Interconnect at Monday evening’s meeting of the Jenkins City Council, said that it will be at least four to six weeks before the work will be far enough along to allow the City of Jenkins to begin to supply any water at all to the Fleming-Neon Water District through the connection at Haymond.