Joe P. Asher
During a meeting of the Cumberland City Council on Tuesday, the possibility of raising water rates was discussed. Mayor Carl Hatfield said it has been “quite a while” since the city has had a water rate increase.
“I don’t how I can bring this up, but you’ve got a suggested water rate increase here,” said Hatfield. “Going by the 2011 Kentucky water sewer rate survey…Cumberland has one of the lowest rates in the area.”
Hatfield presented the council with a basic proposed rate of $32.75.
“That’s what it would cost for the first 5,000 gallons of water that’s used,” said Hatfield. “The minimum rate for the city of Cumberland is $22.75 for inside the city — residential. The rate for the sewage plant is always the same as the water, so it’s $22.75. Outside city, residential, is $2 higher than inside the city.”
Council member Charles Raleigh said there may be other options available besides a rate increase.
“With the amount of water loss and leaks that we have, if we had this repaired we wouldn’t need this,” said Raleigh. “It’s like we’re making the people pay for things they’re not responsible for.”
“How else are we going to rebuild our plants?” asked Hatfield in response to Raleigh’s statements.
“We’re talking about grants and so forth with the plants. People just can’t take a hit like that — not in my opinion,” said Raleigh.
Council member Yvonne Gilliam said Monarch Engineering, a firm that has been engaged to assist in the repair of the city’s water system, has said a rate increase is inevitable.
The council agreed to study the issue further before approving any rate increase.
Council members heard preliminary plans from Monarch Engineering President David Bowles.
“We’ve done a little research on your water and sewer systems, and we’ve found some stuff that you all are probably all aware of,” said Bowles. “We recognize you’ve got some problems at the water plant that aren’t major, but they’re going to have to be attended to. The other thing we recognized is you have a tremendous water loss. Probably as high a water loss as any place we’ve ever seen.
“We also recognize that you’re in the process of resolving an agreed order on your water system. We understand the state officials will be here Friday to discuss your issues on resolving that. Some of the issues have been resolved, but there’s still a few remaining. What we’re looking at doing is once you meet with the state and they tell you what items you have satisfied and the ones that you haven’t, we’ll look at those items you haven’t and see if there’s any capital improvements that need to be associated with that.”
Bowles told council members the water loss issue “will not be fixed quickly.”
“Talking about the water loss issue — that’s gonna be a hard fix. That’s not going to happen overnight, you all are aware of that,” said Bowles. “Our initial suggestion will be to put a master meter at the start of where those long extensions go. Then start monitoring what your running through the master meter versus what your selling, and, maybe, you can find some of it. It’ll take years to resolve this issue, but at least if you start on it now, and you attack it, you might be able to get it manageable over time.”
Council member Carolyn Elliot questioned Bowles about the possibility of the city doing some of the work themselves.
“The purchase of a leak detector by the city, wouldn’t that rectify some of it?” inquired Elliot.
“It’s a start…We would encourage you to do that,” said Bowles. “Your leaks are going to be in a lot of various different ways. There’s going to be big ones, there’s going to be little ones, there’s going to be service lines that leak. You won’t find a smoking gun. In our experience, it’s going to be everywhere. The more you do yourself the less it will cost you and your users to fix.”
Hatfield said the city may have bigger problems on the horizon.
“Speaking about projects, we need to get started,” said Hatfield. “The water plant is nothing compared to what the project’s going to have to have for the sewer plant. I believe that’s going to be a real serious issue. Even though the water plant is serious enough, we’re going to have more serious problems with the sewage plant.”
Leo Miller and Associates Engineer Paul Miller updated the council on aspects of work currently being done.
“As most of you all know we fixed a leak last week — one leak, up in Blair. It took us a few hours to find it, but we got it fixed,” said Miller.
Miller advised the council he was there to talk about a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contract.
“We’ve got it signed, so we’re waiting to get it back from the state. Then we’re waiting on the advanced funding application to come back so we can get started,” said Miller.
Previous reports state about a month ago the city of Cumberland received a mitigation project grant from FEMA along with other funds that amounted to $2,944,444.
Miller clarified for the council why an advanced funding application is necessary.
“The way FEMA is set up, usually the city will pay the contractor then get reimbursed,” said Miller. “We don’t have the funds to do that, so they have this advanced funding application to apply for. Hopefully, they’ll give it to us all at once or they’ll give it to us on a schedule.”
In other council activity:
* A resolution was passed approving a contract for the FEMA mitigation project.
* The council performed the final reading of a privilege license ordinance.
* A motion was made and approved to sign the final contract for the construction of a new playground.
* A resolution was approved for the disposal of surplus city equipment which included a Chevrolet pickup truck and an inoperative salt spreader to be sold for scrap.
* A motion was made and passed giving city employees a holiday on July 6.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org