Tribune-Courier News Reporter
Two members of the Jonathan Creek Water District board were reappointed by Fiscal Court last week despite tense discussions of questions about the utility’s operation.
Leon Lovett and Mark Holt were reappointed with votes from Judge Executive Mike Miller and Commissioner Bob Gold. The appointments were made against the recommendation of North Marshall Water District superintendent Bobby Gifford, who filed a report on the Jonathan Creek district after being asked by Fiscal Court to work with the east county district.
Commissioner Misti Drew, quoting from a report by Gifford, noted that Gifford recommended against reappointment of the water board members because of issues he discovered during his investigation. She said Fiscal Court had received reports of excessive water loss.
Drew read portions of Gifford’s report in which he states that commissioners have made a practice in the past of not reviewing balances, not being familiar with their accounts, not having budgets to review and not having a monthly list of bills that are paid. In short, Gifford said there has been no organization of expenses or finances.
Gifford cited insufficient tank maintenance and reported that the time span varied between eight and 15 years since tanks had been cleaned and inspected.
Gifford also reported that he had advised Jonathan Creek board members of issues at hand, made suggestions to help them begin a plan of action and offered one of his employees from North Marshall district to assist but felt as if he was wasting his time because no changes were made.
“My concern was the 60 percent water loss we discussed in that meeting, that that was not the report given to the state and my concern is that if you have a board that knows they have a 60 percent water loss but are reporting something different to the state, I think we have a real question as to whether or not these board members need to be reappointed,” Drew said.
Sheriff Kevin Byars asked about the 60 percent loss and if the water district had in fact reported false numbers to the state.
“I live out there and every other week [the water] is cloudy, it’s murky, and that’s been going on for a while,” Byars said. “Is that employee going to be held accountable? ... If the shoe was on the other foot and it was me, I was going to be held accountable for what I do, my actions I take. That’s the problem I have with this whole thing right now.”
Mike Edwards, chairman of the Jonathan Creek district, was present at the hearing and said the board has made changes but it’s a work in progress.
He told the court that tank maintenance is a priority but that has to be done in the fall.
Edwards said that another suggestion Gifford made was new software and told the court that Jonathan Creek updated the software recently. He said they have fixed 52 water leaks since Feb. 1 and that the actual water loss as of July was 24 percent.
“We didn’t disregard what [Gifford] said, but finances is a big issue for us,” Edwards explained.
“One of the things that bothered me is the tank maintenance,” Miller said. “That’s something that is imperative to any district, not just Jonathan, but it’s something that you can’t just do when you want to. Timing is important but the maintenance is very important.”
Edwards said the water district has suffered losses and gotten behind because West Kentucky Rural Telephone damaged several pipes during installation of fiber-optic cables.
Edwards said the board sent the telephone company a bill in December but still has not received payment.
Drew suggested hiring an attorney because it’s the board’s responsibility to take legal action to hold the company accountable for the water loss to the district.
Miller agreed, saying, “It would appear to me as a district and as a board member that you would need some legal representation. If I were in your shoes, I would want a legal representative giving some advice to your district. You’re going to have to try to recoup your money from West Kentucky.”