This week, during the Jan. 19 meetings of the Perry County Fiscal Court and the Hazard City Commission, officials discussed several ongoing projects as well as the ongoing water issues being experienced throughout the county.

On Tuesday morning, the Perry County Fiscal Court held their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. During the meeting, the court approved motions involving the water-related problems of the community. These motions included the approval of a declaration of a local state of emergency stemming from Jan. 11 when cold temperatures and inclement weather created main water line breaks and a loss of water, and an approval of a payment request for the Vicco Waste Water Treatment Plant and Sewer Collection Project.

The declaration of a local state of emergency, said Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander, enabled the fiscal court to supply drinking water to the community members who needed it.

“This allowed us to apply for some drinking water through the state,” said Alexander. The payment request for the Vicco Waste Water Treatment Plant and Sewer Collection Project was in the amount of $13,510, and will be paid upon fund availability, said Alexander. Both of these, he said, are short-term steps to resolving water issues.

“Water has been an issue, we’ve not denied it. We’ve not sat here and not done anything,” said Alexander. “Water is the basic infrastructure of life, not only for the safety and well-being of our citizens but also for the economic growth of this community. Both are very important to have growth.”

Alexander said that ever since the water outage in Buckhorn a few years ago, the city and county have been working very closely together to repair and improve the water system and ensure that situations like that do not repeat themselves.

“From that point forward, we’ve put a huge emphasis on water and how we can fix it,” said Alexander.  

The interconnect projects and other smaller-scaled projects, he said, may seem like a waste, but they are actually critical to improving the water system, said Alexander.

“I know this doesn’t put water in your lines today, but I think you’ll start seeing here next summer the changes that we’re making and how it will affect and keep water in yours,” Alexander said.

The interconnect located on Ky. 80 is in motion, he said, stating that the bid has been awarded and the contractor has ordered pipe. The tank, said Alexander, will be located near Knott County, and should be able to feed between 700,000 to one million gallons of water a day to the Bulan tank.

“That project is funded, in place and is going to happen,” said Alexander. “We’re also real close to receiving funding for an interconnect at Jeff. This will allow another 750,000 to a million gallons a day into the system.

“We’re real close to securing a million dollars for the development at a plant at Buckhorn,” Alexander said. That funding, he added, will design the new water plant and have the plans ready to go. The new plant, he said, will take six to eight years to build. I want to thank the fiscal court — even the previous fiscal court worked hard on the water. It doesn’t show as of yet, we can do better. We do not want people going two and three days without water. We’ve definitely got to get where we don’t go a week at a time without water, so that is being worked on. We won’t stop, we won’t let up. This fiscal court will continue to push to get our water system to where we know it can be.”

Later that evening, the Hazard City Commissioners met to discuss several community updates, including the water situation. During the meeting, commissioners spoke with Grondall Potter, the utilities manager of Utility Management Group based in Pikeville, and discussed a possible contract with UMG.

Potter said he and his team would like to take a look at what resources and equipment Hazard has, so they can help Hazard have a quicker response rate to solving water issues and focus on more preventative measures rather than reactive measures. A big part of this, said Potter, will be observing what the duties of each person is and ensuring proper training with equipment and procedures.

“I do think my company can help Hazard with their water issue. Whether it be to lack of training, or losing people over the years, or people not knowing procedures, what I want to do is come back in and review your staffing plan with the water plant in the field and office,” said Potter.

Hazard Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini said the city will do whatever they can to improve the system for the community.

“We’re really making an effort to work on the water system from ground zero all the way out,” said Mobelini.

The commissioners made a motion to look further into legalities and the contract before agreeing to partner with UMG.