Calvert City Council will create a $1 million sinking fund allowing the water and sewer department to pay immediate expenses incurred in an overhaul of its waste-water treatment plant. The water/sewer board will replenish the fund from its operating revenue over five to 10 years. At its Oct. 14 meeting, the council authorized City Attorney Greg Northcutt to prepare a budget amendment creating the fund after hearing a report from water/sewer plant Manager Roger Colburn. The money will come from city savings.
Calvert will "essentially have a new waste-water treatment plant" that will last another 30 years when the rehabilitation project is completed, Colburn said, noting the completed project will include a new lift station. "We are rebuilding the lagoons (at the sewer plant); we removed all the solids from the two cells that we are rebuilding, and today (workers) finished placing the liner throughout both of those cells," Colburn explained. "They've got about two days more work. … We're in the process of advertising for engineers to replace the lift station, which will happen sometime next year."
Colburn explained that the water/sewer board has spent "quite a bit of money" rehabbing the plant and must obtain funding either from the city or borrow from an outside lender. "Our project -- right now we are into it for about $850,000 and we've cash flowed probably $350,000 of that," he said. "We need to take care of some other bills. We've got revenue sources coming … but we need short-term funding to pay bills."
Colburn explained that the board is dealing with "a legacy cost" in this project. "The solids in those lagoons were never removed," he said. "There were 45 years of solids in the lagoons, and solids are a great part of the cost we're dealing with -- probably $350,000 of it. The rest of it is legacy cost that should have been taken care of a long time ago over a period of time." The accumulated solids mean the lagoons were operating at about 50 percent of capacity.
Mayor Lynn Jones said there is a misconception that the assets of the water/sewer board are the water and sewer department assets. "The assets of the water and sewer board are the city of Calvert's assets," he said. "That infrastructure is yours, it's not theirs," Jones said. "That board simply operates that utility for you. … The obligation of the city is to maintain its infrastructure with integrity meaning that the city is obligated to make required improvements to maintain the utility at its highest level."
By creating a sinking fund from which the water/sewer board may draw "gives them an opportunity to plan and to know the funding is there for the steady growth of that utility," Jones said. "If we don't grow the utility, in 10 years we are going to be in a very bad situation. This is the only way to make (growth) happen, to expand that program, to get more users." Creating this fund is wise use of city money in order that water and sewer rates can be maintained at the lowest level possible, Jones added.
Northcutt noted that over the last 30 to 40 years water and sewer rates have been kept low. "We have the lowest rates anywhere," he said. For that reason, the water/sewer board has had insufficient funds to adequately maintain the infrastructure" resulting in major upgrades being necessary now. Northcutt added that Colburn "and everybody else would like for the water and sewer system to be self-supporting. Right now, they are not; that's the bottom line. … Rates are going to have to be raised if it is going to be self-supporting. To fix the immediate issue, the question facing the council is using savings to pay for the upgrades, or borrow the funds.
In other business the council:
n Approved Jim Smith Contracting bid of $460,186.06 for paving of Fifth Avenue. Smith, of Lake City, submitted the only bid, which was under the $525,000 budgeted. Fifth Avenue will be repaved from Main Street to Lone Valley Road.
n Approved Central Paving's low bid of $182,674. 25 for annual street paving, also under the budgeted $200,000. Jim Smith Contracting bid $216,800.
n Heard the first reading of an ordinance amending the city ordinance code prohibiting "pedestrians from seeking physical interaction with persons in motor vehicles" including roadblocks or panhandling on city streets or highways. "Roadblock is defined as a practice whereby individuals station themselves in or near or otherwise occupy the travel portion of a public street or highway for the purpose of … seeking physical and/or verbal interaction with motorists or passengers utilizing the public street or highway," the ordinance reads. Walking or running without contact with motorists will not constitute a roadblock.
n Heard the first reading of an ordinance setting the city tax rate at 24.3 cents per $100 real estate and personal property valuation.
n Heard the first reading amending the city's personnel pay classification to allow the water/sewer department to hire an employee under a new apprentice program established by the Kentucky Rural Water Association. "We see that (program) as a positive to be able to get our employees certified at a more rapid rate," Colburn said. "Right now, it takes on average five to seven years to get them certified to operate our system." With the apprentice program, "in two years employees can be certified to the level required," he added. The pay classification will be a graduated scale of $13.83 to 19.75 per hour. The program is both classroom and hands-on, Colburn said. "It's on-the-job training." A new employee will be assigned a certified personal mentor plus 144 hours of classroom training per year.
n Set prices for mausoleum interment in Calvert City Cemetery at $3,000 for a single, $5,500 for a double.
n Accepted Cypress Creek Road into the city's street maintenance inventory.