Whitesburg KY
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Water bills may go up

Some business owners and residents may see an increase in water rates if recommendations presented to the Whitesburg City Council at its May meeting are accepted.

Veolia Water manager Todd Adams presented the council with a proposed rate structure put together by Veolia staff. Adams said the increased rates would only affect commercial users and individual homes that use more than 5,000 gallons per month. He added that the rate increase will add another $32,000 to the city’s coffers each year.

Mayor James Wiley Craft told the council water rates have not been increased since 1993 and that the increase looks like it is fair. He said most residential users will not be affected and rate increases will not kick in until 5,000 gallons have been used each month. Craft said the increase will have to be presented in the form of an ordinance and he will have one ready for the June meeting.

Council member John Williams said he would rather see a smaller increase for city customers. He added that he didn’t have a problem with increasing fees to county customers who receive their water from the city water plant.

“We provide them with a good service,” said Williams.

Adams said the increase will meet the city’s need to continue to operate in the black. He said the size of the increase, 21 percent, is not as much as it would have been if annual raises had been factored in from the date of the last increase. Mayor Craft said he will be guided by the council’s decision, but he recommends the raise primarily because it does not affect low-income customers or most residential users. He added that the costs of running the city are rising.

The city will say goodbye to Fire Chief Truman Thompson at a retirement dinner on May 29. Thompson has worked with the fire department for 34 years, the last 11 as chief. Craft told the council Thompson had submitted a letter announcing his retirement for health reasons.

“It will be sad to lose such a dedicated employee,” said Craft.

In other business, Mayor Craft told the council he had received a letter from Mark Dennen of the Kentucky Historical Society informing him that the KYVA Building is protected under state and federal regulations that have not been fully met in the Letcher County Conservation District’s efforts toward demolishing the building to make room for a new headquarters building. At its April meeting, the council voted 5-1 to allow the Conservation District to proceed with the demolition.

“Some federal regulations were not complied with,” said Craft. “The city will not be in a position to issue a permit to destroy the building until these regulations are complied with.”

The council also conducted the first reading of the Fiscal Year 2009-10 City Budget. Craft told the council the $2,696,463 budget was one the city could live with and continue to make progress and “move the city’s future.”

Council member Perry Fowler complimented the budget as being well put together. Craft said Fowler should thank City Clerk Garnett Sexton for her work.

Craft added that over $83,000 of the budget came from the taxes on the legal sale of alcoholic beverages in the city. He said that was money the city would not have had to spend otherwise. He said $20,000 of the ABC taxes will be spent on adding a dressing room to the city park’s stage to comply with a request for a separate dressing room from representatives of rockerturned country music performer Billy Joe Royal. Royal will be the headliner at the city’s Independence Day Celebration. His performance fee will also be paid for with alcohol taxes.

Royal is best known for three top ten singles — “Down in the Boondocks” and “I Knew You When” in 1965 and “Hush” in 1967. He also had a top 15 hit with “Cherry Hill Park” in 1969 and several top 10 songs on the country charts including, “Tell it Like it Is,” “Burned Like a Rocket,” and “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow.”

Craft also announced that Riverside Days will be held August 13- 15. Entertainment for that event will be provided by country musician David Lee Murphy and local bluegrass band, East KY Tyme. Murphy topped the country charts in 1995 with his hit single, “Dust on the Bottle,’ and cowrote Kenney Chesney’s 2006 number one hit, “Living in Fast Forward.”

Veolia’s Adams told the council that work is almost complete on the Fields Cliff water line replacement project. He said about 2,000 feet of water line have been installed, along with two new fire hydrants and five taps. About 600 feet of water line remains to be laid and one hydrant to be installed.

Adams said the residents of Fields Cliff have been very cooperative and have not complained about the work. Craft said that whenever work is being done to move the city forward, the citizens are usually very cooperative.

Adams also said the pump station to improve the water pressure at Solomon has arrived at the water plant will be installed as soon as an easement is resolved. He said the work should not take much more than one or two days.

In other business:

• The council voted unanimously to allow Appalshop to close Madison Street during daylight hours for the Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival which will be held June 12- 14. Mayor Craft urged all those at the meeting to attend the festival, saying it was very worthwhile and entertaining.

• Craft complimented the organizers and artists who participated in the Artwalk held the weekend of May 9. Craft cited a recent article in The Lexington Herald Leader calling Whitesburg an “art Mecca” and said, “That’s the kind of press we need.”

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