Whitesburg KY

Water board OK’s $995,262 budget, will examine fees

The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District voted unanimously to accept a $995,262 operating budget against projected expenses of $779,847.43 for 2012 at its November meeting.

Kim Padgett of the Rural Community Assistance Project, who worked with the board to develop the budget, said the budget includes $183,537 for servicing long-term debts. In the past the Letcher County Fiscal Court has serviced these debts.

Padgett told the board that the line item of $26,500 for contract labor is high and recommended it ask the Letcher County Fiscal Court for help with equipment and labor whenever it can to cut the contract labor costs.

Padgett also “strongly recommended” the board address tap fees that are charged to households which did not choose to sign on during the construction phase when contractors are doing hook-ups at no charge as they go. Padgett said the current fee of $650 is too low and cited three fees that were considerably higher and represent the district’s cost to hook up post-construction customers more accurately. The three fees she cited run from more than $800 to more than $1,000 to $1,350, all considerably higher than the $650 fees and one more than double the standard cost.

“ You need to increase the tariff (hook-up fee) to equal the value of the tapon fee after the contract is complete,” said Padgett.

Padgett said if a homeowner waits until after construction is complete, it costs the district a good deal more than $650 to hire a contractor to do the work post construction and the district cannot continue to subsidize people who don’t decide to hook up until well past the contract period. Board Secretary Tiffany Collins added that many of the people who do choose to hook on after the contract period expires don’t pay the fee up front but make monthly installments of as little as $20 per month. Padgett said that if a potential customer will allow a “barrel” (a hook-up assembly minus a meter) to be installed on the property, the fee will be much smaller if they decide later to tap on.

“ You’re trying to serve them with safe drinking water,” said Padgett, “but not to subsidize tap fees.”

Board member Billy Stamper made a motion to increase tap fees to offset losses and Superintendent Mark Lewis said the board should speak with several contractors before deciding on a standard rate. Board member Richard Carter agreed and said the district should a collect the fee before authorizing a contractor to begin work. Padgett reminded the board it lost more than $1,000 on the three she mentioned and there are more that were not included. Carter seconded Stamper’s motion but the actual fee will be decided after speaking with contractors.

In other business, Superintendent Mark Lewis told the board that materials to extend water lines a short distance up Blacksmith Drive have been ordered and the job has been awarded to contractor Wayne Caudill. He also said he has spoken to Alice Richie of the Knott County Water District who told him the Knott County District wants to put in a separate line into the Letcher system at its own expense. Lewis said the line will allow Knott County to better monitor the connection with Letcher County and will also allow Letcher County to detect leaks more efficiently. Lewis said she had asked that the flow from Knott County be increased to six million gallons per month. The board voted unanimously to approve both requests.

Lewis also reported that Josh Nichols has been hired as a part-time worker and said both pump motors at the Buzzard Neck Pump Station had burned out. Lewis said one had only 36 hours service time and the other had 86 hours. He said he has sent one to be repaired and that the warranty has expired on both. He said both pumps have been in service more than one year, which is past the warranty period, and that the paint on both pumps was blistered, which indicates high heat levels. Richard Carter said sitting idle while on-line is hard on pumps.

Jamie Noe of Bell Engineering told the board that bids to extend water lines from Gazelle Drive and Mississippi Drive in Thornton to Sergent Drive would be opened yesterday (Nov. 22) at 1 p.m. in the district offices and said she expects construction to begin shortly after the bid is awarded. Line laying activities and all railroad bores for the Red Star/Ulvah/Hallie Water projects are now complete and the contractor, Cumberland Pipeline, is currently disinfecting and testing lines. It has retained a second leak detection company, C.I. Thornburg, to assist in locating leaks. The district intends to put each section of line into use as soon as it has passed testing and been disinfected.

The water line layout is complete on the Millstone Water Project and coordination on a tank site with Nesbitt Engineering is ongoing. The project awaits funding and will be submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water when a suitable tank site is selected. Abandoned Mine Lands has indicated it is still working to obtain authorization to proceed with bidding from the federal government on the Deane Water Project and Noe said AML personnel told her they expect to obtain authorization any day.

Noe also reported that the line layout is complete for the Pert Creek, Cram Creek, Pine Creek/ Elk Creek, Bull Creek and Carcassonne Water Improvement Project and Bell Engineering has surveyed properties affected by the pump station and tank sites. The project remains with the Division of Water and she said Bell hopes to advertise for bids for Phase I (Pert Creek, Cram Creek, and Pine Creek) as soon as approvals are obtained.

Bell Engineering is also preparing a contract for GPS location of hydrants and valves in the Water District distribution system. The Vicco Interconnect, which is a project of the City of Vicco and will lay approximately 2,500 feet of water line and install a pump station in Perry County to pump water to Montgomery Creek Road and Bull Creek, is scheduled for the first of January.

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