Whitesburg KY

Sewer plant behind schedule

Construction of the City of Whitesburg’s new sewage treatment plant won’t be finished before its November 26 completion date and may not be ready to use until sometime next year.

Kevin Howard of Summit Engineering told the Whitesburg City Council at its November meeting that the completion date for the new wastewater plant will be extended, possibly into next year. Howard said the contractor is preparing a letter to the council and the Letcher County Fiscal Court to explain the delay and to ask for the extension. He said the change from grinder pumps to volume pumps had set the timetable back by adding to shipment time, and that an exception has been filed with the state Division of Water.

Howard said $4.3 million has been paid of the total $5.8 million allocated for the plant and that the change order to accommodate the extension of water lines to Van is ready. He said the Parkway Motel extension will be paid for by the ap proximately $320,000 left over from the original funding for the plant.

Mayor James W. Craft said that when the original Parkway line extension had been proposed, Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward had approached him about the possibility of combining it with a sewer line extension to Dry Fork to take advantage of the ongoing construction and tie in with sewer lines already in place there. Craft said the city and county will collaborate on the project.

“Forward thinking is getting to be a habit around here,” said council member Perry Fowler. “I like that.”

After spending the previous week in crisis mode handling the fallout from a water contamination scare that shut down county schools, city and county water sources, the council finally was able to breathe a sigh of relief at the meeting. Craft told the council that Veolia Water had done a “yeoman’s job” in working with the city to alleviate the crisis and thanked council members and the many citizens who stepped forward to volunteer to make the situation bearable. He said Veolia had brought in specialists from all over the country to work with the city to get the water plant back in operation as soon as possible.

Craft asked the council to reduce water bills for Whitesburg water users by 25 percent because of the water crisis. He said people were entitled to that much credit for being unable to use water for anything but flushing toilets for a week. He told the council it would need to make the motion and vote it in since the mayor cannot give away city funds without the council’s approval. Craft said people will need to bring their water bills to the payment window in City Hall to receive their discount because the water collection software is not set up to make that kind of change.

“It’s fair,” said Craft. “The people are entitled to that. We were down for a week without water.”

Jeff Kilgore of Veolia said that so far no permanent damage from the alleged petroleum pollution has been detected in the water plant and Veolia will go ahead with planned modification and the replacement of media (filtering devices). He said Veolia workers are currently doing sampling and testing on a daily basis until Veolia is notified by the Division of Water that it can resume quarterly sampling.

In other business conducted by the city council in their November meeting:

• Mayor Craft reported that several homeowners beyond the Parkway Motel have requested to be added to the annexation and several have opted out as well. He said County Surveyor Richard Hall had a stent put in that day but will work on it when he gets better.

• Craft reported that Comcast will deed the old Salyers building to the city and Letcher County writer Sam Adams is working on a grant proposal to get the hazardous waste removed from it. The Salyers building is the former site of Comcast Cable Offices. Craft said after the building is cleaned up the city will have another historic building.

• The council voted to give Craft permission to enter into negotiations with the Letcher County Fiscal Court to purchase the old Whitesburg Post Office. Craft said he intends to allow the Letcher County Tourism Commission to continue to use the building but he intends to put a city tourism commission together as well.

• Craft reported that the Tree of Hope will be located in the old post office and interested parties can pick up the names of needy children and drop gifts off there.

• The city took delivery of four new 2009 Ford LTD Crown Victoria police cruisers and is working on grants for two more. The new cruisers came to the city at no cost. The funds for the cruisers came from $97,000 in asset forfeiture money from state and federal law enforcement agencies from assets forfeited from drug seizures in the city.

• Mayor Craft and the council all commented on the success of the recent Halloween Safe Night and thanked all the local businesses and citizens who were involved with the effort. Craft also congratulated the entire council on the members’ re-election.

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