Whitesburg KY
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Water and sewer board drops plan to make landlords pay overdue bills

A proposal to charge landlords for water bills run up by renters has been temporarily withdrawn by the Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District. At the board’s February meeting, Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton said that while municipal (city) waterworks can legally charge landlords, he has found nothing that clarifies the position for county-owned water systems. The board voted unanimously to rescind the ordinance.

In other business, the board voted to begin a process that will result in hiring two additional field workers. Water Superintendent Tim Reed told the board that at least one worker was needed, but board member Billy Stamper asked Reed to try to envision what he would need in order for him to spend more time attending to managerial duties and less time having to “fight fires” and attend to other duties with which a field worker could deal. Reed said at least two more workers would free his time up, but added that he would prefer to hire one at a time to make the training process less time consuming. The board voted unanimously to advertise for one new worker now with an eye toward hiring another after the training period is complete for the first.

Reed told Stamper that it is probably advisable to consider hiring one additional worker for each 400 to 500 additional customers as new water lines come into production. He said at present, the district has almost 2,000 customers and only two field workers. Stamper said he is interested in planning so that Reed can attend to managerial duties and still have enough workers to attend to the various duties required by an expanding water system. Joe Burns of Kentucky Rural Water added that the board should look toward purchasing at least one small pickup so workers could be more mobile and suggested the new hires be used to do meter reading as part of their duties.

“With the growth you are experiencing, everybody is spread thin,” said Burns. “ Work isn’t getting done and it shows in the finances.”

Burns told the board he was specifically referring to new water hook-ups as lines are extended. He said that with additional hires, new hook-ups could be expedited and disconnects could be done more quickly as well. He added that since not all “barrels” (hookups with meter taps that are ready for use by a customer) are in use, the new workers could map the system so time isn’t wasted reading meters that aren’t actually in use. Burns said that as a long-term goal, the district should look to having a separate facility with offi ces, boardroom, warehouse, etc. that would be centrally located to facilitate efficient operations.

Burns said additional workers will also help to detect and repair water leaks in order to prevent them from becoming major “ blow- outs.” He said a recent blow-out caused a significant water loss, and that since the district pays $3 per 1,000 gallons for its water, leaks mean lost revenue. Burns said he has spoken with the board of the newly constituted Tri-Cities Utilities Distinct in Harlan County and that it looks very promising that a water source for Letcher County customers on Cumberland River will be available soon.

Reed told the board that a recent incidence of diesel fuel leaked into the Kentucky River had only affected those county customers that are served by the Whitesburg Water System and that the Knott County Interconnect had been the reason. Board Chairman Phillip “Pee Wee” Back agreed, saying that the KCI has been great for the district and that people on the lower end of the county are happy with the service.

Reed added that with Phase I of the Thornton Water Improvement Project near completion, another 39 potential new customers could be added, and an additional 70 can be added with the change order to extend lines to Gazelle Drive. Reed said district workers took care of 65 work orders and completed work around the KCI connection in January. Hook-ups are now available on Tango Drive. Board Secretary Tiffany Collins said that two Tango Drive residents have already signed up.

Collins also told Reed that the new software under consideration will eliminate a number of problems. She said the system currently in use was designed for a small system and the district has outgrown it. Jerry Small of Rural County Assistance said his office is currently working on accommodating the newly proposed system to fit the requirements of the Kentucky Public Service Commission for public accounting requirements.

In Bell Engineering’s monthly report:

• Jamie Noe of Bell Engineering reported that Stotts Construction has completed all work associated with the KCI except for repaving driveways that were crossed by water lines and the contractor has moved all his equipment to the Premium Highway 160 job site. Work will begin in Premium as soon as the Kentucky Department of Highways approves the bond positing.

• Phase I of the Thornton Water Project was completed on February 8. The Letcher County Fiscal Court has approved an additional $300,000 for extending Phase I to lay lines to Gazelle Drive, with funding becoming available in April or May. Work will begin as soon as funding is available.

• Project construction is ongoing on the Red Star/ Ulvah project and work on side roads is nearly complete. Work on laying lines along Route 7 is ongoing.

• The water line layout is complete for Pine Creek, Pert Creek, Cram Creek and Bull Creek, Elk Creek and Carcassonne and Abandoned Mine Lands has advised that $3 million will be available in the summer of 2011 for the work.

• The water line layout for the Millstone Water Improvements Project is complete and Bell Engineering is coordinating a tank site with Nesbitt Engineering, which is handling the Payne Gap Water Project.

• Project line layout is complete for the Deane/ Beaver Gap Project and sites for water tank(s) and pump station(s) are being finalized.

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