No tap-on fees will be charged by the Letcher County Water and Sewer District on water line projects funded by the Division of Abandon Mine Lands (AML).
AML representative Phillip Bowling attended the January meeting of the Water and Sewer District’s Board of Directors and said that AML has traditionally picked up the tab for tap fees. The board agreed to continue the practice except in cases where a potential customer refused to allow a “barrel” (a housing for a water meter) to be installed during construction but later asked to be hooked on.
“Historically, the AML projects’ tap fees have been paid by AML,” said Bowling. “You can charge a deposit but AML pays the tap fees.”
Bowling said that the necessary meters for each project are purchased by AML and are considered part of the project equipment until the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on a project expires. He said in that case, the meters can be applied to another project or purchased from AML. Bowling said he checks the meter inventory occasionally and after the base is set if the potential customer doesn’t take the meter, it goes into inventory. But he emphasized that once the MOA expires, the meters are no longer free for new customers.
“After the MOA period then that train has left the station,” said Bowling. “No more free meters.”
Board member Billy Stamper told Bowling the problem with which the district is concerned is when people have refused any set up and then decide several years later that they want water. Stamper said the district’s aim is simply to break even on the costs of setting a new barrel and meter.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who questioned the tap fees at recent meetings of the Letcher Fiscal Court and Jenkins City Council, said he was relieved the matter has been put to rest. Fleming represents Jenkins and Payne Gap on the court and told the board he had been concerned that a high tap fee would prevent people who badly need access to treated water from signing on. He asked the board members if they would like to vote to remove tap fees on AML projects, but no motion was made.
In other business, Water Superintendent Mark Lewis told the board a vehicle had struck the Millstone Sewer Treatment facility and done considerable damage. He said parts had been ordered and repairs will start as soon as they are received. He added that the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department is investigating. Lewis also said that a one call number, 633-4111, has been established for reporting water emergencies only. He emphasized that the number is only for emergencies and should not be used for everyday matters, which should be addressed to the district office.
Payne Gap Water Line Extension Project Engineer Matt Curtis reported that more than 60 percent of the pipeline has been laid, and predicted that water will be flowing in the Phase I lines in a matter of months. Phase I will take lines beyond the entrance to Fishpond Lake. The entire project will cost more than $4 million and will run lines from a master meter at Payne Gap along US 119 and thorough Bottom Fork to connect with lines at Kona and Millstone. Curtis, who works for Nesbitt Engineering, told the board the City of Jenkins has offered the use of City Hall for a public meeting to allow Payne Gap residents to come in and sign up for water service on January 26 at 6 p.m. Because of AML funding, the work will be done without the district going into any debt.
Jamie Noe of Bell Engineering reported that construction on the Deane Water Improvements Project is expected to begin in late February or early March. The lines will be installed by Akins Excavating of Corbin.
Noe also reported that Phase III of the Thornton Water Improvements Project was also awarded to Akins Excavating. He said Akins personnel have been certified to meet additional traffic control requirements put in place by the Kentucky Department of Highways for the Thornton and Deane work.
Construction is essentially complete on the Red Star/Ulva and Hallie Project and line testing and disinfecting are ongoing. The project water line layout for Pert Creek/Cram Creek/Pine Creek is complete and final revisions have been submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water and will be advertised for bids as soon as final approval is obtained. Anticipated bid date is late February or early March.
A contract for services is being prepared for the district for GPS location of fire hydrants and valves in the distribution system and the Vicco Interconnect project is underway to connect 2,500 line feet of three-inch line to serve 10 customers in Letcher County. The project is paid for by James River Coal to replace water impacted by mining. Meetings have been held with representatives of the City of Hazard to connect the Letcher County system with the Hazard system at Red Star to serve as back-up for both systems. The Loggy Hollow project has been approved by Department of Water and waits funding.
Ward told the board that documentation has been executed for an agreement to use $850,000 in multi-county coal severance tax funds to extend water lines from the City of Cumberland into Letcher County to serve Letcher residents on Cumberland River. The plan includes a water tank that will be placed on the Harlan County side of the line. Ward said locating the tank there will allow the district to spend more on extending water lines.
Ward said he has spoken with Perry County Judge/Executive Denny Noble and both agreed it would be better to use an eight-inch line to extend the Perry County connector to Letcher County for added capacity instead of the current three-inch line. Ward said they will probably go for additional multi-county funding for that project as well. The line will serve primarily as a back-up measure to allow Letcher County to buy water from another source in an emergency.
District One Magistrate Bobby Howard asked the board about the possibility of extending lines to areas in Cowan that were bypassed when the City of Whitesburg initially ran the lines into the community. Back said it would have to be worked out with the city and asked Howard to help by speaking with the Whitesburg City Council.
Retired Kentucky State Trooper David Combs also asked about running lines a short distance from existing ones in Ice to serve a group of houses there. Combs said he can see the place where the existing lines end from his home now.