Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leaks and lines: Council debates water-bill adjustment policy, OKs engineering work for Higgins Street project

By Miranda Sergent
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Water leaks and lines were the main topics of discussion at Monday evening’s city council meeting.

After months of discussion, a new ordinance has been drafted to govern water bill adjustments, and the council is planning to replace water lines on Higgins Street with federal money loaned by the state.

Adjusting the bills of property owners who have large leaks has been a headache for the council for some time. This ordinance would allow adjustments for farms, which don’t qualify for them now because they are not on the sewer system. The ordinance is also designed to help city officials decide if a property owner actually needs an adjustment.

The council wants property owners  to be able to have an adjustment if the leak is not their fault. The ordinance was drafted to discourage negligence and will only allow one adjustment in a 12-momth period, based on proof of repairs completed by themselves or a plumber.

Most of Monday’s discussion dealt with whether a leak qualifying for an adjustment would have to be underground, as the original draft of the ordinance said, or could also be a leak inside the home, as requested by Council Member Dan Roller.

Council Member Sara Hicks said, “We don’t want to reward negligence.” Council Member Sharon Turner asked, “What if someone fills their pool up and says they had a high water bill?" Regardless of how the ordinance is written, she said, “People will do whatever they can do to find a loophole.”

Nevertheless, the council tentatively agreed to include any leak on the customer’s side of the meter.

More changes were made to the draft, including that decisions on adjustments would be made by a sewer and water committee, instead of the mayor. Josh Salsburey, who was sitting in for city attorney Phil Moloney, said he would have a redraft for the council to consider Monday morning at the council's special meeting Bozarth's proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The council approved a contract with HMB Professional Engineers of Frankfort for work on the Higgins Street water project, contingent on approval of the loan by the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority.

The contingency was included at the behest of Council Member Bruce Southworth, who expressed reluctance to obligate the city before the grant was approved. Bozarth urged approval, saying, “This is an opportunity, and Midway needs to take advantage of it for the improvement of the water lines.”

HMB’s water/wastewater division manager, Chris Stewart, said there will be three phases of the project. Phase 1, on the western section of the street, would connect all homes to the six-inch line serving fire hydrants and run an extension to an existing three-inch line. Phase 2, between Winter and Gratz streets, would remove a two-inch line and connect with a three-inch line. Phase 3, from Gratz Street to Brand Street, would add a six-inch line at the end of the street.

HMB has estimated the project cost, including engineering, administrative and environmental work, to be around $214,050, Stewart said. The estimated construction cost will be around $146,000. Stewart said he estimated that the loan would cost all water customers in the city an average of $1.67 a month on their bills, but KIA may calculate a lower cost, which the city would follow.

On an active construction project, Stewart said he would contact the contractor on the handicapped ramp project on East Main Street to correct some largely cosmetic problems with the work.

The council approved use of nearly $30,000 in leftover housing funds for materials to build a Habitat for Humanity home at 218 N. Winter St. The money comes from federal funds Midway recaptured from Habitat home occupants who moved out before their homes were fully paid for. 

Doug Searcy of Woodford County Habitat for Humanity said the group has built eight houses in Midway and is also planning to building a 10th one at 209 Stephens St. He said, “I appreciate the cooperation of the council and hope I see you as volunteers out there helping to build the house on North Winter Street.”

The council heard first reading of an ordinance to return to industrial zoning 43 acres in Midway Station that were among the tracts rezoned as residential several years ago. Bozarth said he wants to have a second reading and approval of the ordinance during Monday morning’s special meeting.

The property, owned by the Woodford County Development Authority, is under consideration by major industries. "We're very excited about it," said Dick Murphy, the attorney for developer Dennis Anderson. EDA Executive Director Craig McAnelly said after he left the meeting that the prospective sale of the property did not depend on speedier-than-usual rezoning.

The council approved Bozarth’s request to place five military flags, one for each branch of service, behind the veterans’ monument in the cemetery.

Turner announced that an event called “Time to Talk,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 28 next Thursday at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System office in Versailles, will discuss heroin issues in Woodford County. Also, Turner said this Saturday is National Drug Take Back Day. To drop off old or unneeded prescriptions, go to the Woodford County Courthouse in Versailles from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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