The newest member of the Letcher County Water and Sewer Board says he is not comfortable with condemning property that would allow for water lines to be installed to serve a portion of Craft’s Colly.
Bernard Watts questioned the procedure at the June meeting of the Water and Sewer District Board of Directors. Jamie Noe of Bell Engineering told Watts the condemnation along a portion of Copperhead Road is being carried out by the Kentucky Department of Highways after the department was unable to come to terms with a property owner to allow it to build a bridge across the stream to allow safe access to the western bank. Both Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward and Lee Lowe of Bell Engineering assured Watts that the Letcher County Water and Sewer District has not used condemnation in the past as part of its process for acquiring access to property easements and that it will avoid it whenever possible.
“We try to avoid condemnation,” said Ward. “But the state couldn’t deal with the landowner in this case. We got permission from the state to attach our water line. Condemnation isn’t a practice we really use here. We usually come to an agreement or find a way around the property.”
“To my knowledge, it’s never been done here (by the Water and Sewer District),” said Lowe.
Ward also told the board that he met recently with representatives of James River Coal Company who told him James River will pay for a portion of water line extensions on Bull Creek, near where the company is conducting mining operations. Ward said he had flown over the area in a helicopter with James River personnel who told him they had received complaints about mining damage to wells in the area and added that James River is willing to donate whatever land is necessary to get water to the people who have been affected.
In response to a question from Judge Ward, Jamie Noe also told the board that the Pert Creek portion of the Pine Creek/Cram Creek/Pert Creek Water Project will provide water to homes on the opposite side of US 119 (the right side going up Pine Mountain), in the area just beyond McDonald’s.
Ward told Lowe and Noe that the bulk of the homes in the Premium/ Highway 160 area lie just beyond the planned termination point of Phase I of the project. He said if lines can be extended into Bee Tree and Johnson Fork, the county can pick up several hundred new customers.
“We’ll have a line there, but it won’t serve anybody,” said Ward. “We really need to get it to where the homes are.”
In the superintendent’s report, Tim Reed told the board the district has gained customers and installed enough water meters that it is getting low on its supplies. He said the meters cost $92 each and the district will soon run out if the supply isn’t replenished.
Reed also said that consumer confidence reports are finished and will be published in The
as well as being included with customer bills in the next billing cycle. Reed said the district had only one violation in the past year in its Kentucky Division of Water inspection and had no sanitary violations, a record which he said goes back to 2002. He said the DOW had some recommendations for the district and they will be addressed.
The violation occurred in the total level of TTHMS (total trihalomethanes) with a reported result of .088 mg/l (milligrams per liter) which exceeds the MCL (maximum contaminant level) of .080 mg/l. The report said the problem is common in water systems without a completed cycle of lines (like the district) where water stays in lines for a considerable time without being flushed and will be alleviated when lines are complete and water flows continually throughout the system. It also reads that for health effects to be experienced, a person would have to drink eight cups per day for 70 years.
Reed asked about raises for his hourly workers but Judge Ward told him the board should examine the district’s financial picture before implementing the two percent across-the-board raise given to county hourly employees. Ward said it would be much easier to add the raises to the district’s budget when new customers start coming onboard than to have to lay off personnel in the event of a deficit. He said a lot of counties near Letcher are not only not giving raises, but are experiencing lay-off s.
Board Chairman Phillip “Pee Wee” Back told the board the district had cleared $6.30 in the last month and Board Secretary Tiff any Collins added that a payment of $47,000 on the district’s loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency will be due soon. Collins said she had already made a $22,000 payment to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority and Ward said it is important to keep loan payments current and the fiscal court would make the RD payment and the district could repay it when it receives a new round of funding in the new fiscal year.
Back said one area the district will save money on is its attorney fees. Board Attorney Jamie Hatton won the Democratic Primary Election for County Attorney and has no opposition for the November election. Back said it has been customary for the county attorney to advise the board at no charge. Current County Attorney Harold Bolling served the Water and Sewer District at no charge from its inception until last year when, at Back’s request, he was replaced by Hatton.
Board Attorney Hatton also addressed the question of writing off delinquent customers for accounting purposes. He told the board it is a common accounting practice to write off delinquents because they are counted as assets in audits, creating an artificial pool of assets. He said that allowing the board’s accountant to write off the delinquent accounts would in no way keep the board from pursuing them in court or by other means. Hatton also told the board that it will be impossible to collect accounts past five years old, when the statute of limitations will apply.
In the Engineering Report as submitted by Bell Engineering the following was reported:
• A 60-day extension was granted to the Knott County Interconnect contractors due to time lost in unexpected delays in obtaining easements.
• Construction can begin on the Garner Mountain Water Project at the district’s directive.
• Construction can begin on the Loggy Mountain Water Project as soon as funding is available.
• The district can begin construction on the Premium/Highway 160 Water Project, Thornton Water Project, and Red Star/ Ulvah/and Hallie Water Project upon concurrence of the Public Service Commission.
• The Pert Creek/Pine Creek/ Cram Creek Water Project, Deane/ Beaver Gap Water Project, and Elk Creek/Bull Creek/Carcassonne Water Project are ready for construction upon Abandoned Mine Land’s notification of the release of funding.
• Project design continues on the Millstone Water Project.