CHAVIES — The Perry County Sanitation district is moving forward with plans for a new sewer plant in the Chavies community.
Plans for the plant have been in the works for many years, but have never gotten off the ground. With several forms of funding now secure, Sandy Dunahoo of Nesbitt Engineering told the district’s board of directors this week that it is now or never for the plant.
Perry County has received grants from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Appalachian Regional Commission, along with securing $800,000 in coal severance tax, finally giving them enough money to build the plant and lines.
“We end up with $1.385 (million) to build the plant, and that money would be available as of July of this year,” said Engineer Paul Nesbitt.
Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble did express concerns as to whether or not all of this money will be available at the time that they need it in order to use all of the various grants.
“Coal companies are down. Now we do have the money in the state law, so we are going to get the money if the coal companies go back to work,” said Noble. “If they don’t come back, then what are we going to do for the money?”
Due to the severe slowdown in the Eastern Kentucky coal industry, several legislators and county judges have feared that coal severance may not be available in the quantities that have been allocated in the state budget.
Donahoo said that it may be in the best interest of the county to apply for a rural development loan just in case the coal severance was not available.
“We need to get really moving on it quickly, because the EPA money has been a long time, and we had another EPA grant that was pulled because we didn’t do anything with it,” Nesbitt added.
Both the EPA Grant and the KIA grant/loan combination have an expiration date on them and would have to be used within the next year. This means that the plant could begin construction soon. If it does not, then the sanitation district could have to wait at least two to three more years before they would have the possibility of acquiring the necessary funds.
“I always say that working these projects with multiple grants is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, but the size of the pieces change,” said Nesbitt.
“We are going to lose the EPA money if we don’t move, we know that,” he added. “We are going to lose the KIA money if we don’t apply at the board meeting in June, so we need to move forward. Like the judge said, you need to move forward with the courage that the coal severance is going to be there, because if we wait on the coal severance then we are going to lose everything else.”
The board voted to move forward with purchasing land and acquiring all of the loans and an additional grant to make sure that they can begin construction.
The plant, if constructed, will initially service around 160 new customers, but will eventually grow to serve many more. New regulations make sewer hook ups necessary for most people. A power and utilities company will no longer hook up power to a home if the home is not connected to a sewer or operating with a working septic tank.
In northern Perry County, many homes reside in small spaces between creeks and hillsides, meaning that many septic tanks do not have the environmental factors that they require to work properly. To help ensure cleaner surface water and customers for the new plant, the health department can make hook-up mandatory for anyone with a failing septic tank, or using a straight pipe who are also close enough to use the new sewer plant.
Since the project is deemed necessary, the fiscal court has the option to force the purchase of land to lay lines and build the plant. The land will be evaluated and the court will have to pay the fair market price to any land owners. Officials are hoping that the forced sale won’t be necessary, at least not to the large amount of land for the plant itself.
The sanitation board’s member said they feel confident that they can fit the pieces of this moving puzzle together, and help to service this currently unreached area of Perry County.