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City Commission Talks Water

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

The Harrodsburg City Commission talked water Monday night. At their regular meeting, the commissioners addressed a resident’s flooding complaints, discussed adopting new technology that might solve current billing issues, talked about possibly extending sewer service to Riverview and learned the city had narrowly averted a disaster that could have left residents without any water at all.

Diane Ford Mays wanted to talk about the flooding problem at her home on Linden Avenue. It was not her first trip before the city commission to discuss the issue.

“I’m back about the water,” she said. Mays said water from the recent heavy rains pours down from the top of the hill, bypassing other homes, and ends up creating “a little pond” near her house.

“It runs right down into my garage,” said Mays, who asked why a drain couldn’t be installed to divert the floodwater from her property.

Commissioner Charlie Mattingly, who oversees the public works department, said the city had installed a drain.

“It’s not big enough,” Mays said. “It’s not catching enough water.”

She also said city workers have been lax in how they handle drain maintenance. Mays said she had also called the street department about getting the drains cleaned out, but city workers had left leaves which ended up in the drain.

“Why would you clean them out and just let them set there?” Mays asked. She provided commissioners with pictures of the flooding damage. She said if the drains were cleaned out more frequently, they might drain better.

Commissioner Mattingly said he would make sure city workers went back to the site to take care of the drains. “We will clean them out,” he said.

However, Mattingly said he didn’t know how the city could stop the waters from an event like the recent heavy rains from reaching Mays’ property completely.

“That’s a toughie right there,” Mattingly said.

“There has to be some way to reroute it,” Mays said.

Mayor Art Freeman said the city is experiencing similar issues at other parts of Harrodsburg.

“We have culverts under the railroad tracks that have collapsed,” Freeman said.

Mays said it is one thing for city property to be damaged, but it’s another when it’s the home where you have lived for decades.

“You all are not losing anything,” Mays said, “I am.”

The mayor said Albert Moore, the director of public works, would take a look at the situation and see what more the city can do.

The commissioners also discussed replacing water meters with  smart meters. Chris Boyd of Ferguson and Holman Capital Funding, which would install the meters, and Scott Bradley of Master Meter, which manufactures them, said the technology would allow the city to issue leak alerts to customers in real time and allow them to compare readings from different locations. Most importantly for customers who have been complaining about irregular water bills, it would allow the city to issue bills on a consistent basis. Over the last few years, city workers have been unable to get all meters to physically read the meters on time, leading to irregular billing periods.

Mayor Freeman said many customers budget to pay their water bills. When they receive bills for water usage longer than the 30 day billing period, they’re caught short.

“When they get one for $95-100, it hurts,” Freeman said.

With the smart meters, city employees would perform the readings at the office instead of physically driving out to the meters. Boyd said the billing cycle would be the same each month.

“You will get very consistent billing,” he said.

Residents would also be able to monitor their water usage by downloading an app.

The city has already installed 750 smart meters as part of routine maintenance. They would need to install over 3,000 meters to cover the entire city at a projected cost of $1.5-million. The cost includes installation, customer notification and training employees. The new smart meters will last 15 years. Freeman said the city is looking at financing the project.

In addition, city hall and maintenance crews would also be notified if there are leaks. The technology would also allow the city to identify meters that have been tampered with or are damaged by weather.

“This is going to solve a lot of problems for the city, for the water department and for customers,” Freeman said.

He said he wants to look into financing the project. When they make up their mind, Freeman said they want to move as soon as possible.

Freeman said he had been approached by the Mercer County Sanitation District about extending sewer services to Riverview citizens who were not currently connected to the city sewer. Jason Sanford, director of the water maintenance department, said about 10-percent of Riverview residents are currently served by the sewer.

Freeman said the city could earn more revenue by expanding services, but they would need to invest more resources as well.

“Do we want to tackle the expense of extending sewer system there?” the mayor asked.

He said the city could provide sewer to Riverview cheaper than the sanitation district.

They would have to gauge the residents’ interest before proceeding.

Levi Henderson, director of the water treatment plant, informed the commissioners a break occurred last Wednesday around 6 p.m. Henderson said for the next 17 hours the plant was unable to produce water after the 12-inch water line split open.

The section of pipe, one of two that supplies the plant with water from the Kentucky River, is about a mile long, Henderson said. If the rupture had occurred at another location, they might not have been able to find the leak, he said.

Fortunately, the city had pipe on hand to replace the damaged section. Henderson said they also need to install valves which could have redirected water through the other pipe.

“Had we had a fire or a break in town it could have been pretty devastating,” he said. Henderson said the plant was at 75-percent capacity at the time of the break. By the time they were back on line, they were at 15-percent.

While there are connections with other nearby systems that could potentially provide water, the issue would be pressure. The tanks provide the pressure that causes water to flow.

The commissioners also voted to proceed with repair work on filter six at the water treatment plant.

The next meeting of the Harrodsburg City Commission will be Monday, March 9, at 6 p.m.

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