Tribune-Courier News Editor
CALVERT CITY — Residents of Calvert City could soon face a mandate to hook on to the municipal drinking water system.
City Attorney Gregory Northcutt introduced a new ordinance at the March 11 City Council meeting. Upon first reading, the ordinance mandates drinking water collection.
He said the city has a requirement for residents within city limits to hook on to the sewer network, but now does not require residents to connect to drinking water.
The ordinance also clarifies language related to tampering with meters, adds the position of general manager and increases deposits from $100 to $150.
Northcutt said the city imposes a $780 tap fee to city residents. Water customers are also responsible for providing plumbing to get water from the main to their homes within 100 feet, if proven feasible by engineers.
“I don’t know of anyone that has access to to the system, within city limits, that hasn’t tied on,” Northcutt said.
Councilman Daryl Smith used his brother as an example. He said his brother lives within city limits but uses a well as a potable water source.
“Why would we have people who are on a well, and perfectly happy with their well, tie on to our system?” Smith said.
Roger Colburn, general manager of Calvert City Water, said a municipal water supply guarantees safe drinking water. He added full participation allows residents to share the cost of the system and keeps prices affordable.
“I think with the economy of the times and conditions residents are laboring under, it would be difficult to ask someone on a fixed or limited income to spend an additional $780,” Smith said.
Councilman Kevin Stokes reminded the meeting that cost was only the tap fee, not the cost of infrastructure.
“Water and sewer is a user-based program,” Mayor Lynn Jones said. “We need more users to have a lower cost. Everyone needs to be a part of it. We need the economy of scale to keep costs down. If we don’t have that, we could end up spending $150 per month for water.”
Colburn said the system faced additional costs when it placed a line outside city limits along U.S. 95. The move was prompted by several requests. Once placed, only three people tied on. The city has to flush the line regularly.
“We need more customers to share the cost and tie on,” Colburn said.
Smith asked if there was a way to waive tap fees without showing favoritism or discrimination.
Northcutt said a waiver would have to serve a rational public purpose. “It would have to be for a purpose other than feeling bad,” he added.
Smith asked Northcutt to research laws for ways to avoid hitting residents with a major expense.
In other business, the City Council passed a resolution allowing City Councilman Tim Hawkins to participate and vote in meetings via video conferencing service Skype.
Northcutt read the resolution recognizing Hawkins room at Parkview Nursing and Rehabilitation in Paducah as a secondary site. He may participate and vote in all open meetings via Skype as he recovers from an illness.
“There is a statute in the open meetings law that allows teleconferencing,” Northcutt said. “If we do teleconferencing and pass this resolution, we will not need another resolution as long as Tim is in the hospital since we’ve designated a primary and secondary location.”
Northcutt said a stipulation of KRS 61.826, the meeting would need to be suspended if there was an interruption in signal. The meeting could resume once communications were re-established.
“Technology is changing the way we operate,” Northcutt said. “Ten years ago, this would not have been possible. Now it’s simple.”