County wants agreement before giving away sewer assets

Cris Ritchie — Editor

September 17, 2013

HAZARD – The Perry County Fiscal Court on Tuesday voted against a measure that would have transferred certain sanitary sewer assets to the Knott County Water and Sewer District until the issue can be studied further.

Jennifer McIntosh with the Kentucky River Area Development District noted the Troublesome Creek Environmental Authority, which is working on a project to complete two wastewater treatment plants in Knott and Breathitt counties in order to serve residents along Troublesome Creek, is getting out of the business of operating the plants themselves.

“Troublesome Creek will remain an entity that funds and constructs, but they will no longer do operations,” McIntosh said. “What they will do from this point forward, is they will build whatever needs to be built, whether it’s a plant or collection line for sewer, and then they will turn it over to whichever entity is closest.”

The Knott County treatment plant was completed in 2012 in the Ball Creek community, and McIntosh explained a resolution up for consideration before the county on Tuesday would transfer all sanitary sewer assets from the authority, of which Perry County is a part, to the sole ownership of the Knott County Water & Sewer District.

McIntosh said an expected development on Chestnut Mountain didn’t develop as the authority had planned, leaving the plant without an adequate customer base. It was a result that Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said he warned the authority’s board of directors about early on in the project, and asked them to build the plant in Perry County where it could tie in with more customers.

“I did tell them that plant would not operate with what little sewer they had coming in,” Noble said. “They told me I wanted everything in Perry County. If they would have put that in Perry County, that (plant) would have been operational.”

Noble said he would not vote to approve the transfer of assets without some sort of assurance that future customers in Perry County, living along Troublesome Creek and served by the Knott County Water and Sewer District, would be protected from unfair rates once Knott County takes possession. The fiscal court in Perry County, he added, provided both multi-and single-county coal severance to help fund the Troublesome Creek project.

“We’re not going to just give something away that we built to help our people,” Noble said. “There has to be some kind of agreement to where the people of Perry County will not be put in jeopardy to pay a higher sewer bill, because we’re not going to have any control over it.”

McIntosh noted the rates would be subject to approval from the Public Service Commission, and added that sewer rates are already fairly expensive at a bit more than $20 for 2,000 gallons.

The court voted unanimously to reject the resolution until a contract can be approved that will include certain protections for residents of Perry County who will be served by the treatment plant.