Tompkinsville city commissioners will send Monroe County Water District officials a letter regarding a proposed raw water intake facility the city is considering building at the Cumberland River.
The city would also build a 16-inch pipeline capable of carrying up to 3 million gallons a day and pumping the water from the river to either its water treatment plant or the city lake, which is the city’s current primary source for water. The city sells water wholesale to the water district.
Commissioners agreed to send water district officials the letter after Gary Larimore and Andy Lange with the Kentucky Rural Water Association and David Bowles with Monarch Engineering Inc. spoke about options for improving the city’s water service.
“I think we need to hear what their answer is to our proposal,” said commissioner Scotty Turner.
In December, commissioners asked Bowles to develop a proposal showing how much it would cost the city to pump water from the river.
“What we came up with to do that is somewhere in the $9 million [range],” Bowles said. “Out of that $9 million, we were looking at two funding agencies. One was USDA and the other one was the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority.”
He told commissioners he thought the city could obtain close to $2.3 million in grant funding and about $6.7 million in loans.
Bowles’ proposal is only one option the city has to consider. The others involve the water district building a raw water intake facility at the river and the city partnering with the water district to help fund the project.
In August 2013, state Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, called a meeting of local, state and federal officials to discuss the water district’s proposal. The idea of building a raw water intake facility at the river has been discussed for more than seven years.
Officials agreed to ask representatives from the Kentucky Rural Water Association to make a presentation to the city commission regarding an analysis of the city’s waterworks operation and the water district’s proposal to build the facility.
Lange and Larimore presented their findings to the commission in November 2013 and told commissioners that the city would need to increase its water rates and focus on upgrades to the city’s waterworks infrastructure.
Commissioners asked Larimore at their November meeting to contact water district officials about whether or not they had a proposed water rate in mind.
Larimore told commissioners he had received a letter from the water district’s engineer offering scenarios on what kind of water rate proposal the water district had in mind.
In the letter, the water district’s engineer talked about the worst-case scenario, which would involve the city buying water from the water district at a rate of $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. Doing so, it is assumed that the city’s water loss would be reduced to 40 percent from its current rate of 60 to 70 percent.
“With this scenario, the district rates will need to increase, of course’s he’s talking about the water district’s [rates] need to increase their rates by 19 to 20 percent,” Larimore said. “This letter is dated back in Nov. 11.”
Lange took information from the city’s 2013 audit report to create three scenarios, which he presented to commissioners.
The first involves the city maintaining its own water treatment plant indefinitely, with the water district building the raw water intake facility at the river in 2014-15 that would become operational in 2016-17. In this scenario, Lange said the city could reduce its water loss to 30 percent and break even on its water system by 2017, when the water district has completed the construction of its raw water intake facility at the river.
The second scenario involves the water district building its raw water intake facility at the river and the city purchasing water from the water district at $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. Should the city go this route, it would still reduce its water loss to 30 percent by 2017 and break even with its water system by the same year.
The third scenario Lange presented involved the city purchasing water from the water district at a rate of $3 per 1,000 gallons with the water district building its raw water intake facility at the river. Under this scenario, the city’s water loss would be reduced to 20 percent and it would break even with its water system by the year 2018.
“Under this scenario, you wouldn’t break even until ‘18 because of a higher cost of purchased water,” Lange said.
He told commissioners the figures would shift if the water district begins construction of the raw water intake facility later than 2014.
“It depends on where they are in the application process,” Lange said. “There again, I feel like you all asked us to basically provide you all with the information so you could make a well-informed decision and I think this all started in August  at a meeting where the water district needed your help.
“They need you to tell them whether or not you want to go it on your own, or you want to go in with them on this water treatment plant. And that’s kind of where we are at now.”
He continued that “the numbers point to us that you’ve got a lot of work you need to do in the distribution system regardless of what your decision is.”
Larimore then commended commissioners on increasing water rates by 30 percent, which they did in December.
He told commissioners he knew they needed to do a lot of work on the water distribution side because they did vote to increase water rates.
“That’s not an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do,” Larimore said. “Regardless of which way you go, you had to do that and you will have to continue to do that; to focus on your distribution system. I commend you for taking that tough step.”
Larimore also told commissioners that regardless of what they choose to do, they will have to levy another water rate increase about three to four years down the road.
“A lot of that will depend on how much additional water loss you drive drive it down and whether you’ve got expenses somewhere else,” he said.
In closing, he reminded commissioners that the water district, he believes, needs the city’s help.
“It’s kind of to the point you all either need to tell them yes or no, and I know they would like to have that in writing one way or another,” Larimore said.
He explained the water district wants the city’s response in writing because it could help with the funding of their project, in particular with Rural Development.
“If they got a letter that says the city does not want to go with them on that project, then Rural Development can then say, ‘OK, we’ll try to help you,’” he said. “Also, on the flip side, it would certainly help them in their application ever how that negotiation would come out.”
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