Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ky. American answers questions about water and sewer, but hasn't run numbers on buying systems

By Denny Densford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway residents finally got to hear from Kentucky American Water Co. and discuss their opinions on the future of the water and sewage systems last night, but got no hard figures on how much the company would pay for each system.

After Kentucky American president Cheryl Norton, right, gave a presentation about the company, she and two employees joined Mayor Tom Bozarth, city water-sewer consultant Mark Roberts and members of the Midway water and sewer task force on the stage at Midway College to answer questions from the crowd of about 60.

“I think they had some good questions,” Bozarth said after the 80-minute meeting. “I think the people that really care are here.”

During her presentation before the question-and-answer period, Norton said the average Kentucky-American water bill is $32.75. She said that if Midway joined the system, all water users would continue to pay a single rate, but sewage costs would depend on the city’s obligations for that system.
Bozarth said Norton and her staff had asked for more time to present their analysis of what they would pay for each system and the effect that would have on rates, and Norton said she hopes to have that at the next meeting, in mid-April.

Council Member Grayson Vandegrift said after the meeting, “I’m not going to criticize them because they’re still figuring out the numbers. “But I want to hear the numbers, that’s the most important thing: A, what do you think our system is worth, and B, what do you think the average bill is going to look like if you purchase the system.”

Norton said Kentucky American could not guarantee that it would have the same priorities for water and sewer upgrades that the task force developed, and would need to do its own investigation.
“We have started looking at what we would do if we purchased the system,” she said. “Typically what we’ll do is we’ll develop a plan of replacement, whatever the most important capital needs are and we plan out for five years.”

Michael Ashton asked if current city water and/or sewer employees would be kept on. Norton did not give a firm answer, but said their experience would be useful and they would have to meet the minimum requirements of a drug test and a background check.

“The intent isn’t to come in and remove all the employees and replace them all,” Norton said. ”We really value the expertise that they bring to the table.”

Kentucky American recently took over city water and sewage in Owenton, and “We took everybody on,” Kentucky American operations superintendent Kevin Kruchinski said. “All the people that were [there] came over. Some have retired since, some have left.”

Bozarth said he had reached out to Owenton to get an impression of its transition. “We went and talked to the mayor,” he said. “He gave us some suggestions, but overall they were pleased with what service they got.”

Norton said that her interactions with Bozarth and the city council had been positive, and that she hoped to continue working with them.

Midway purchases its water from Kentucky American and owes it $173,881 for a water line extension into Midway Station, north of Interstate 64. Norton said that debt and city bonds for the sewer plants would be taken into consideration as part of an offer.

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