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Watts now heads Letcher water board

The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District voted unanimously at its May meeting to elect serving member Bernard Watts as board chair to replace former chairman Phillip “Pee Wee” Back. Back resigned in April, following a controversy stemming from a failed attempt by the Letcher County Fiscal Court to use coal severance funds to pay for tap (hook-up) fees for new water customers.

The board also learned that previous funding for the Blackey Wastewater Treatment Plant has been reallocated by the state legislature and can be used to extend water lines to Carcassonne. Benny Hamilton of the Kentucky River Area Development District, who works with the district on funding issues, told the board the funds were reallocated in a line item in the current budget and said an additional $344,000 from the Blackey Plant as well as $500,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission will be used to extend lines in Premium for Phase II of the Premium/Highway 160 Project.

Hamilton told the board that funds from the Blackey Plant that were requested to be reallocated for general use by the district will not be available until June or July, so they cannot be used to make a bond payment of $22,589.69 to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA). Hamilton asked the Letcher County Fiscal Court at its May meeting if it would make the payment and replace the money when the funds are available. The court voted unanimously to agree to the request.

Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering delivered the Engineering Report and told the board that both Phase III of the Thornton Water Project and the Deane Water Project are going well. The Thornton project is 51 percent complete with 41 percent of the contract time elapsed the Deane Project is 64 percent complete with 41 percent of the contract time elapsed.

Caudill told the board that bids for the Pine Creek/ Pert Creek/Cram Creek project have been opened. Separate bids were taken for the overall work of Phase I and for the construction of a water tank. Caudill said Ronnie Mullins and Sons of Elkhorn City submitted the low bid of $2,056,136 for the overall line extension work and recommended that the board accept the bid. However, on the tank bid, Caudill said the low bid in the amount of $248,500 submitted by Welding Inc. did not include a micropile system that was required in the bid to stabilize the tank and recommended that the bid be awarded to Laurel Construction, of London, which submitted a bid of $493,327 that included the micropile system.

Caudill said the micropile system was recommended by geological consultants hired by Bell Engineering to determine the suitability of the tank site and that Welding Inc. had submitted a letter to the effect that it could not do the micropile work at the bid price. He said Welding Inc. is trying to re-negotiate the bid, but that it would be unfair to allow it to proceed since Laurel Construction will not have the same opportunity. Board member Billy Stamper asked if rebidding would be an option and Caudill said it is, but added that if the micropile system is done to the bid standard, it is likely that the Welding Inc. bid will be the same or higher than the bid submitted by Laurel Construction. The board voted unanimously to award the bid to Laurel Construction.

A contract is being prepared to undergo work to discontinue the discharge from the Millstone Sewer Plant with the intent of either removing the plant from service entirely or using a septic system to capture the existing effluent.

Inquiries have been made to Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) about the possibility of obtaining $720,000 in order to begin work on the Bull and Elk Creek Water Project in 2012. AML has responded but will have to wait until bids have gone out for other already funded projects to see what is left over. An additional $500,000 in KIA money will be available in early August as well. The Red Star/Ulvah project is nearly complete but the district still holds $133,091.20 in project funds as a retaining fund to ensure compliance with the contract.

Caudill told the district board that Letcher County will receive $6.1 million in AML funds this year. He said the next highest county will receive $3 million. Matt Curtis of Nesbitt Engineering, which is working with the City of Jenkins on the Payne Gap Water Project, told the board that the project is nearly complete and lines are being tested. Curtis said funds for Phase II will be available in July and Nesbitt will advertise for bids in June. Phase II should take the project to the Millstone connector at Mayking, going through Bottom Fork and down US 119.

County Attorney Jamie Hatton said he is working with the Jenkins City Attorney in negotiating a price for water the county will purchase from the City of Jenkins after the Phase I Payne Gap lines are turned over to the district. Hatton said the district will have to have a price structure in place before it starts to sell water and said unless the district and City of Jenkins agree to the rates, the Kentucky Public Service Commission will have to make a price for them. The contract will have to include a daily minimum as well as a maximum amount that can be purchased.

Superintendent Mark Lewis reported that the Millstone Sewer Plant has exceeded discharge limits twice and said it will probably cause problems for the district. Lewis also said the handheld meters district workers use to read meters have been recalibrated and factory reconditioned. He added that Hazard accountant Chris Gooch has done all the necessary field work for the district’s audit. District secretary Tiffany Collins told the board that the new billing software is working well but the accounting portion has not been installed.

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