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Mercer County Sanitation District Weighs Options On Final Sewer Holdouts

Members of the Mercer County Sanitation District’s board of directors examine a map in a file image.

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Mercer County Sanitation District is considering what to do about Burgin residents who have still not connected to the city’s sanitary sewer system.

In some cases, it’s not because people don’t want to, it’s because they can’t afford to. That’s what Larry Catlett, the sanitation district’s attorney, told the board at their meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8. Catlett said he had received responses to 40 mandatory connection enforcement notices that went out Aug. 31. Out of 40, 17 have responded, Catlett said. He said half of those who have responded say they are already connected. Some say they connected years ago.

“We’re going to have to have somebody from management who will have to go out and do a physical inspection,” Catlett said. He said he hoped to have a list of people to file complaints on by the sanitation district’s next meeting in October.

At least three respondents said they couldn’t afford it. Catlett said they didn’t qualify for 504 funds because they weren’t older than 62.

“You’re going to have to make a decision on them,” Catlett said.

“It’s a tough decision,” said Mike Sanford, the executive director of the sanitation district. Sanford said he was working with a couple of people on getting connected to the sewer, which was completed in 2019. “I think it’s important to be consistent.”

“Are they paying the sewer bill now?” asked James Dunn, chairman of the sanitation district’s board of directors.

“At least one of them, yes,” Catlett said.

“If they’re paying their water bills, they’re paying for sewer service,” Sanford said.

The board discussed several options, including financing the connections themselves, but Dunn was resistent.

“We have really really really really really bent over to help folks,” Dunn said. He said it sometimes came back to bite them on the butt.

“We have financed trees and rockwalls and everything else,” Dunn said. “To me, it would be hard to justify.”

Dunn also worried what other residents, who paid to be connected to the system, would say if the district financed for the last few to hook up.

“How loose lips will talk,” Dunn said.

Dunn also worried how the sanitation district would afford it. “We don’t have any money to begin with,” he said.

The sanitation district experienced a budget shortfall about a month ago. Mercer County Judge-Executive Scott Moseley suggested the district submit a request for the next round of funding to be made available from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We are as nonprofit as nonprofit gets,” Sanford said.

None of the board members seemed to relish the idea of taking the last few homeowners to court. Dunn suggested looking for other revenue streams that could pay for sewer connections. He suggested setting up something with the Mercer County Community Endowment.

“That’s one area where we can take a look at,” Dunn said.

The board took no action on the issue. They also heard a progress report on the Gwinn Island Sanitary Sewer Project.

For the rest of the story, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald. Click here to subscribe.

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