Whitesburg KY

Water connection should bring new projects

The board of directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District have received a long awaited dose of good news about a water line connecting Knott County’s water system with Letcher County.

Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering told the board that the Knott County /Highway 1410 Interconnect has been approved by the Kentucky Division of Water and will be funded by Kentucky Abandoned Mine Lands. Caudill said AML has given both Letcher and Knott County permission to bid the project and bids will be let some time in September after Labor Day. The Interconnect will greatly add to the capacity of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District to serve its customers and to expand the customer base as well.

Caudill told the board the Interconnect, which will bring water to Letcher County from Carr Creek Lake, will also help the district get approval for a number of other projects which are ready to go but were held up by KDW due to concerns over capacity. Now that the capacity issue is settled, the district will be able to undertake several projects and as Caudill said, “load up and do everything we have the money for.” That will include projects in Thornton, Premium, Highway 160, and Red Star and Haley.

He added that some of the projects will have to be done in phases, accomplishing what work can be paid for while funding is arranged for the next phase, but said the phased approach will also make for an early start and easier approval from KDW.

Board Chairman Phillip Back said that board attorney Jamie Hatton has spoken to people in the Knott County Water District about finalizing a contract for the water service. Hatton said he sent a copy of a proposed contract to the Knott County District the week before last and the two districts were supposed to meet later in the week.

In other business, the board discussed the possibility of handing the Payne Gap/Kona Water Project over to Jenkins in order to comply with action taken by the Letcher County Fiscal Court at its June meeting. Caudill told the board that while Bell Engineering would prefer to complete the project, it is willing to comply with the board’s wishes. He said Bell has identified about 497 potential customers for the project and plans are about 70 percent complete. Caudill said the district owes Bell $119,000 for its planning and other work on the Payne Gap/ Kona project.

Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming told the board it is his understanding that the City of Jenkins plans to hand the lines back over to the district after construction and sell the county water through a master meter to service the new customers. Fleming said the arrangement will be the same as the one they have with the City of Whitesburg to sell water to customers in Mayking and other areas serviced by Whitesburg’s plant. The Jenkins City Council also met on Thursday evening and council member Rebecca Terrill said the council plans to sell the county water to service the Payne Gap/Kona area through a master meter from the tank at Gateway Industrial Park. Board Secretary Jackie Joseph said that in any instance, AML will still have to release the project from the district and shift it to Jenkins. Caudill and the board have expressed hopes that AML will fund the work 100 percent due to extensive pre-law mining in the area.

Fleming asked the board to officially release the project to the City of Jenkins, which he said could do the project faster and had the current capacity to serve the area. Both Fleming and Second District Magistrate Archie Banks agreed that the change was only intended to help the people in Payne Gap and Kona to get badly needed water. Judge/Executive Jim Ward said that he did not want to see the study be slowed down.

“People in Payne Gap are desperate for water,” said Fleming. “Jenkins has a tank at the industrial park that is ready to go. Everything is in place. It makes sense to go ahead and turn it over to the city of Jenkins.”

Joseph added that an agreement has already been signed between the district and AML for Bell Engineering to conduct the AML study of the Payne Gap/Kona area. She said Bell has a three-year contract which runs through June 30, 2010 to do the $52,000 study. Joseph said if the board does give the project to Jenkins the contract will most likely have to be re-negotiated and both the district and the Kentucky Public Service Commission will have to send letters to AML requesting the change.

Banks asked if the project is switched what the fate of the AML study will be, and Caudill said the funding AML has allocated for the study could be shifted elsewhere and Jenkins might have to go to the “back of the line” when applying to AML to fund the study. The board tabled any action until a special called meeting to be held Thursday August 27 at 6 p.m. in the District Courtroom. Judge Ward said he would invite the Jenkins City Council and Mayor Charlie Dixon to the meeting.

In other business, Judge Ward said he has spoken again with Joe Grieshop, Judge/Executive of Harlan County, and was told that Harlan County is ready to go forward with a project which will enable it to supply water to Letcher County residents along the Cumberland River. He said he will arrange a formal meeting to go over the details. Back said the board hasn’t heard anything further from the Pound, Va. Water District, which is supposed to be drawing up an agreement to supply water to Letcher County residents on Cumberland River as well. Attorney Hatton said he had written a formal letter to the Virginia district’s attorney but has not received a response. Ward suggested they try to arrange a meeting with all the concerned parties to clarify the matter.

Ward also said the district stands to gain about 1500 new customers when the projects Caudill mentioned are completed and that the need for a larger customer base is critical. Caudill said the district needs at least 1000 new customers to service loan payments.

The board also voted to allow District Superintendent Tim Reed to look into purchasing a new pick-up truck for district use and authorized Board Chair Back to conduct the purchase agreement. Reed said he found a Chevy fourwheel drive at Morgan McClure that qualifies under the Cash for Clunkers program. Back said they would try to finalize the agreement over the weekend in order to beat the Monday 8 p.m. deadline.

Jackie Joseph reminded the board that it still does not have a personnel policy in place and said it has approximately $75,000 in excess funds from two projects that can be used for general fund expenditures. The board has 1,669 customers as of July 20, but Tim Reed said new customers are being added daily on completed projects.

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