Whitesburg KY

Water board hires new manager

The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District has voted to hire a Cumberland man as its new general manager.

At the conclusion of an executive session near the end of its May meeting, the board recommended laying off former manager Tim Reed and hiring Mark Lewis. Both recommendations passed unanimously. Reed had asked to step down from the superintendent position in March. Lewis said he has worked for 26 years in water and sewer and most recently worked in the Cumberland Water and Sewer District. His salary was set at $45,000 per year.

In other business, the board received news from Kentucky Department of Abandoned Mine Lands, which told the board that $4 million has been authorized for water line extension projects in 2011. Mark Meade of AML presented a memorandum of agreement for the Pine Creek, Pert Creek, Cram Creek Project for $3 million and a second memorandum of agreement for $1 million in funding for Phase I of the Deane AML Water Project. Meade said both projects will belong to the district upon completion and described AML funding as “the best deal around.”

The Division of Abandoned Mine Lands works throughout the state’s coalfields to protect the public from health and safety problems caused by mining that occurred prior to 1982. AML also administers a water supply replacement program. The division extends waterlines into areas where drinking water has been contaminated by past mining. The division budgets up to 30 percent of its annual funding on waterline projects each year.

The division’s AML program is funded by the federal government. The federal government gets its funding for AML programs by collecting a fee on every ton of coal produced by mining operations nationwide. Meade said contractor bids will determine how far each project will extend lines and Jamie Noe of Bell Engineering said she expects the Deane project to go to the junction of Kentucky 7 and Route 317 going from Deane toward Neon.

Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward attended the meeting and said the $4 million is very important to Letcher County. He said the Pine Creek-Pert Creek- Cram Creek project has the potential to add a lot of new customers to the district, which will help the district become self supporting.

“ I hope AML realizes how important they are to Letcher County,” said Ward.

Bell Engineering representative Jamie Noe told the board that work on the Premium/ Highway 160 project is basically complete at Bee Tree Fork and continuing construction along Highway 160 is held up while awaiting an encroachment permit to go through work to widen Highway 15 at the intersection of Highway 160 at Van. Phase I of the Thornton Water Project has been extended by a change order because of coal severance funds appropriated by the Letcher County Fiscal Court. The contractor anticipates beginning work to extend lines from Baker Metal to Gazelle Drive this week.

The Red Star/Ulvah project is significantly behind schedule and the contractor indicated that CSX Railroad bores are tentatively scheduled to be performed near the end of May. Project plans have been submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water for Pert Creek, Pine Creek, and Cram Creek and await its approval. Engineers from Bell Engineering visited tank locations and shot elevations last Thursday. Water line layouts are complete for the Millstone and Deane/ Beaver Gap Projects as well and will be submitted to DOH.

Noe also said the bill from CSX on work along Highway 1410 totaled about $28,000 and $13,000 of it was for flaggers and an inspector. She said Bell Engineering will seek clarification as to what CSX did to merit that amount of money. Board Chairman Phillip “Pee Wee” Back said he believes the inspector and flagger were actually the same person.

Kentucky River Area Development District representative Benny Hamilton reported that funding extensions have been granted on the Cumberland River Project and the Thornton and Pert Creek-Pine Creek- Cram Creek project for one year. He said he had asked for longer extensions, but that the extensions will probably continue to be done on a year-by-year basis. Hamilton added that he had received a call from the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Commission on the Premium/ Highway 160 Project about a funding request submitted for $500,000. He said the minimum match for the ARC grant will be $125,000 and it is still uncertain as to whether it will be granted, but added that it looks good.

Hamilton also said there is no news on Rural Development funding for Cumberland River, but that Rural Development funds have been set back to 2008 levels. He added that water and sewer funding is getting more difficult to obtain, but that Letcher County’s ability to obtain coal severance funding for use as matching funds helps a great deal.

Kim Padgett, state director for the Rural Community Action Program, suggested that the district concentrate on paying off at least one debt so it will have one less on which to have to make payments. She also said she has spoken to Mayor Carl Hatfield of Cumberland and Cecil Lockerby, superintendent of the Cumberland Water District. Padgett said they are aware of Letcher County’s needs for Cumberland River and they can sell the Letcher County District enough water to serve 500 houses. She added that they are aware that they will have to move toward unification with the Tri-County Water District.

Before he was replaced, Tim Reed brought up the question of meters and other unused equipment that has already been installed with meter barrels, but is not being used by Letcher County residents who have chosen not to hook onto the county water system. The equipment is worth about $ 250 for each barrel. He suggested making certain there is no intention to hook on and removing the equipment so it can be used in other locations. Reed also suggested that pressure relief valves no longer be free after the first one. He said the valves cost more than $40 and a lot of them get replaced at county expense.

Ward told the board if it chooses to pull a meter barrel, it should make sure the homeowner has no intention of hooking up and make it very clear what they will be charged if they decide to hook up after the barrels have been removed.

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