Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 23, 2012

Clock ticking on regional sewer decision

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

GREENUP —  The time is coming for Greenup leaders to make a decision on whether to join the regional sewer system or be left behind.

In the words of its city attorney Stephen McGinnis, “In January, this train will be leaving the station whether we’re on it or not.”

Greenup has been under pressure from county officials and project planners since April although the regional sewer project has been in discussion for about six years. There is a sense of urgency to act now because $1.87 million in grant funds for its construction could be recalled due to inactivity.

Joining a regional system would allow Greenup to shutter its aging waste water treatment plant and pump its sewage to Wurtland’s newly constructed facility. A new line and pump stations to serve Greenup would be built, but Greenup would retain its own wastewater collection infrastructure within the city with its own employees and the responsibility to maintain its internal system.

The regional sewer plan also calls for another, separate parallel line to be built to serve unincorporated areas of the county. Sewer service will eventually be extended to these residents, with Lloyd being targeted first.

If Greenup does not join this line would be built immediately using the existing grant funds, according to county officials.

Greenup would then also have to determine how to upgrade its own waster water plant to meet current standards. Mayor Lundie Meadows said he believes Greenup will be pressured by the Kentucky Department of Water to reconsider its decision and that a permit for its treatment plant could also be withheld by state regulators until costly upgrades are made.

Other council members have echoed Meadow’s sentiment, noting that the construction of the new line would not cost Greenup any money.

The pressure on Greenup to make a decision that started in April, resulted in direct negotiations between Wurtland and Greenup regarding how rates will be determined, set and how any conflict would be resolved. The result of those meetings is a 29-page ordinance establishing a five-member Greenup Joint Sewer Agency, representing Greenup, Wurtland, the Greenup Fiscal Court, and a member of the Greenup Wastewater District. It

Last Tuesday, Wurtland leaders approved the first reading of the ordinance at their 5 p.m. meeting but an hour later the Greenup Council delayed approving the measure there despite the advice of McGinnis, who encouraged them to do so and has been in the negotiations.

Council member David Black said he felt there still remained too many unanswered questions about the eventual cost of joining the project and the fate of employees, helping to delay the vote. He asked Meadows to provide an estimate of the costs for both treating its own sewage and transferring it to Wurtland by Greenup’s meeting on Tuesday.

According to Greenup County Clerk Jessica Gilliam, the sewer project is on the agenda. If the council approves the ordinance then, it will need a second reading to take effect. The council will meet again on Dec. 11.

Greenup Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter also confirmed the clock was ticking for Greenup. The first meeting of the Greenup County Wastewater Board of Directors, an appointed board consisting of three members that will oversee operation of the new lines, was held this week. It is working to draft a letter to Greenup officials to be sent next week that will include a firm deadline for a decision, he said. ”They are going to have to do something,” Carpenter said.

“It’s something that is needed,” said Carpenter. “Lloyd needs sewers. You have two schools and 400 to 500 houses down there without any city sewage. You have got to have basic infrastructure for anything to happen. Once you see sewer down there, you will see more houses go up just as fast as they can. Right now, the big holdup is sewage.”

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.