Whitesburg KY

Water district hopes to end $350 tap-on fees

If the Kentucky Public Service Commission approves a request by the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, tap fees for hooking on to newly constructed water pipelines will be a thing of the past in Letcher County.

At its March board meeting, the district’s board of directors voted unanimously to ask the PSC to approve an end to the $350 hookon fees.

Phillip “Pee Wee” Back, chairman of the water and sewer district board, said he has spoken with a number of homeowners who want public water but have a hard time paying the $350 up front. Doing away with the fee would attract new customers and increase the monthly cash flow, Back said.

“We have to get more money coming in,” said Back. “If we can’t pay the bills, we can’t keep operating. The tap fee is the hold-up. Some people have problems coming up with $350.”

Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward believes that doing away with the tap fee could gain the district as many as 1,500 new customers, an amount which would far offset the loss of revenue from the tap fees.

District engineer Stephen Caudill told the board that tap fees are actually paid for and meter barrels are installed during the initial construction phase, and that the money is considered profit for the district. Caudill, who works for Bell Engineering, said that the district has a number of meters already in storage.

District Office Manager and Board Secretary Jackie Joseph estimated that as many as 350 more homeowners in Jeremiah would like to have treated water but have not hooked up.

The board voted to file the request with the PSC after authorizing the use of $39,000 left over from a previous water line project to help meet the cash-strapped district’s payroll for A pril.

The board of directors also discussed capacity needed to continue to expand the county’s water system. Caudill said expansion can’t take place until Letcher County water lines are connected to Carr Creek Lake in neighboring Knott County.

Caudill said he hopes construction of the “Knott County Connector” can begin soon. It would allow treated water to be pumped from a new water plant at Carr Creek Lake in Knott County to Letcher County customers. The connection will have to be finished before water can be offered in communities such as Thornton.

Caudill told the board engineering plans for the connector are finished. He said other county projects are in varying stages of development, with lines in Smoot Creek expected to be finished by July 1.

The board also voted last week to continue studying the feasibility of connecting water lines in the Cumberland River area with the Pound, Virginia water system. Corey Napier of Vaughn and Melton Engineering, project engineers for the Cumberland River Project, made the recommendation.

Napier said the Pound system was built with the prospect of selling water to Letcher County in mind. He said the Pound system has one 100,000 gallon tank in place but that another would have to be built by Letcher County. Napier said hooking onto the Virginia system would also enable the district to gain as many as 130 additional homes along the Flat Gap route.

The connection with the Pound system could be paid for with $1.3 million allotment that was already in place to connect the Cumberland River area connection to Harlan County. It was later determined that Harlan County did not have the capacity the project would require.

In other Water and Sewer District business:

• Blackey resident and Hazard Community College Professor Mike Dixon presented a request from Tracey Hayse, an environmental engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to serve as an intern with the district this summer. Hayse is a great granddaughter of the late C.B. Caudill of Blackey. She will serve at no cost to the district or county as part of MIT’s Public Service Center’s summer program and said she would do whatever best serves the district’s needs. The board vote unanimously to approve her application.

• Chairman Back cautioned Bell Engineering that PRIDE funds could be lost if more progress is not made in obtaining easements for sewer lines in the Blackey/ Jeremiah area. Back said he would like to schedule a community meeting to explain the easements to the residents and possibly get some signed up on the spot.

• The board voted to postpone changing the mailing address for the district’s office because of the need to move the office to a more suitable location.

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