The Letcher County Water and Sewer District will operate in 2013 under a budget of $1,120,781, which was adopted at the January meeting of the district’s Board of Directors. The board also learned that there is sufficient funding to complete the entire Deane Phase II Water Extension Project, which will include Mill Creek and Shelby Fork.
“No one will be without water,” said Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering, as he delivered the engineering report. Caudill also told the board that there are enough funds left over from previously completed projects to allow the district to strengthen its maintenance and infrastructure capabilities and to pay for the sites for the pump station and water tank for the Deane Project, which he said will cost approximately $5,000 each. The board voted unanimously to proceed with the purchase of both sites. Caudill said the tank should be ready to go to bid in late February or early March.
Caudill said contract documents are being circulated for signatures for Deane Phase II and a preconstruction meeting will be held in two to three weeks. Judge/Executive Jim Ward praised the Kentucky River Area Development District, Abandoned Mine Lands, and the Rural Community Assistance Project for identifying the extra funds to make the total Deane Project possible without having to seek extra funding.
Laurel Construction has completed construction on the tank for Phase I of the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/ Cram Creek Waterline Extension Project and will suspend construction until water lines are extended to connect with the tank. Line extension contractor Ronnie Mullins and Sons has completed the Pine Creek portion of the project and the area where meters will be set has been pressure tested and is being disinfected. KRADD has obtained permission from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority to connect lines from Pine Creek with lines in Thornton through the use of previously committed KIA funds. Phase II of the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/ Cram Creek Waterline Extension Project awaits the Kentucky Division of Water’s approval.
Kim Padgett of RCAP reported that 45 user agreements were signed at a meeting for potential customers for the Pine Creek/ Pert Creek/Cram Creek Waterline Extension Project that was held on January 23 at the Mayking Volunteer Fire Department. Judge Ward praised the department for not only allowing the use of the building but for allowing the district to leave water user agreements there where they can be picked up by the public. Padgett also thanked Judge Pro-Tem Eddie Meade for helping to secure the sites for the Deane tank and pump station.
In a related matter, the owner of a Virgie contracting company that was passed over in bidding for Phase II of the Deane Water Project and the statefi nanced section in Shelby Fork and Mill Creek, attended a planning session of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District that was held earlier in January, to make his case and ask the board of directors to reconsider its decision to award the contract to Akins Excavating of Corbin.
Shawn Combs of Strata Services, located in the Pike County community of Virgie, attended the meeting along with Brett Isom, a Letcher County insurance agent who insures his projects.
Combs told board Chairman Bernard Watts, board member Richard Carter, Water District Superintendent Mark Lewis, and Steve Caudill and Heather Noe of Bell Engineering, who work with the distract on water projects, that he felt his company had been treated badly since it had in fact submitted the lowest bid of $406,034.71. The bid opening was held on December 11, and Strata had the low bid against Corbin company Akins Excavating’s bid of $419,355. However, at the December meeting, Steve Caudill told the board that although Strata had the low bid, the company representative (Combs) at the opening admitted the company has no experience in installing water lines. However, he said it had done work for the Mountain Water District in Pike County.
Caudill also said Strata also did not have a bond contract with a bonding agency that is on the 750 List approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury. He said Strata had submitted a cashier’s check in lieu of a bond, and listed Viking Bond Service of Phoenix Ariz., as its bonding agency, but Viking is not on the 750 list. Caudill said federal law requires that bonding companies must be on the USDOT 750 list in order to receive federal funds.
Combs said he would have attended the December meeting if he had known there were issues with the bid. He said that although Strata has not done any pipeline projects, it does have a good deal of experience with other waterrelated projects and added that he had been in business for 20 years as an engineer and contractor. Combs said he had worked for Summit Engineering of Pikeville on a number of pipeline projects and Strata had worked with the Mountain Water District in Pike County inspecting lines and on other related projects. He also said he has a number of employees who have worked on water line projects with other companies before they came to work at Strata. He added that all his employees are certified miners who have to be recertified annually so their training is always up to date.
Combs also took exception to the way he learned he hadn’t received the bid. He said when he had left the bid opening, he was under the impression he would soon hear Strata had been awarded the bid since he had submitted the low bid. He said he called Bell Engineering after the December 20 board meeting but had been unable to speak with Steve Caudill, and learned that Strata had not received the bid from Ison, who said he read about it in The Mountain Eagle. Combs said all the information he had about the board meeting and awarding the contract came from the article in the December 26 edition of The Mountain Eagle.
“I found out from The Mountain Eagle,” said Combs. “ It screams. It screamed at me that day. It was all the information I had.”
Combs told the group that all his employees are local, either from Pike or Letcher County, and asked the board if it would do anything to rectify the situation. Ison also said he felt Strata had not been treated fairly. However, Board Chairman Bernard Watts said he felt the board had made the correct decision at the December meeting and Richard Carter agreed.
Combs added that he knew the planning meeting was not an official board meeting anyway, and there was no quorum so no actual business could be conducted.
Caudill also apologized for not contacting Combs, saying that the December 20 water district meeting had been the last day he worked until after Christmas. He also said he had told the board at the December meeting that Strata had said in the bid letter it could supply an approved bonder.
Bernard Watts told Combs the board had made the decision rather than Bell Engineering.