Water surcharges taken off some residents’ bills

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Loans for water project now paid off, officials say

By Lisa King

Water, water, everywhere, and plenty to drink, has been a long-standing motto for county officials, who have worked hard to ensure that every resident has access to running water. Finally, a goal has been achieved that began as a vision back in the early 1990s: Almost every resident has running water, and those who have been paying surcharges to pay for the cost of water projects will see that extra charge coming off their water bills. Shelby County Magistrate Tony Carriss said the Shelby County Fiscal Court is one entity which has promoted water projects over the years. “Early in the 1990s, the big push was trying to find ways to get potable, or city water, to folks in the county, especially my district [the Mount Eden/Waddy area], which had many roads where residents had no water,” he said.  Many ideas were tried, and ultimately rejected, Carriss said, including an especially promising plan that would have allowed the county to put up a portion of the money with the residents putting up the remaining money, which would be split up and paid out annually over a 10-year period. “That worked out until we found we had many roads where folks didn’t have or couldn’t come up with $2,500” he said. Then they developed an idea to put surcharges on water, so that lines could be built to service other roads.  “But the problem we ran into there was this had never been done for a water line project and the Kentucky and Public Service Commission wouldn’t approve it,” Carriss said. That was just the beginning of what would lead to a precedent for that practice. “We started out what ended up being a 6-month marketing job to the PSC, which meant many meetings and all the political pressure we and Sen. Marshall Long could muster,” he recalled. “But after much debate, the PSC approved this, and within a few years, many roads had running water.” One reason why officials pushed the water issue so hard is that many residents had been using cisterns and wells that were neither sanitary or safe, Carriss said.  In 1993, Woodlawn, Bardstown Trail, Hickory Ridge, Samples Lane and Crawford Road were built, and a $9 surcharge was applied, with the idea being to have the loans paid off in 20 years, a goal that has already been realized. “These loans have now been paid in full three years early, and the $9 surcharge will be removed from customers’ bills on these roads,”  Carriss said. Bill Eggen, chairman of the board of the U.S. 60 Water District, said the thing that he is glad of is that the loans have been paid off earlier than expected. “I am really happy about that, and I know the residents on those roads are, too,” he said.  The one exception is Rockbridge Road. Loans for that area are expected to be paid off in September 2001. The only not-so-bright spot about the situation is that there are still a handful of residents—perhaps three homes—on Bardstown Trail that don’t have water, and are not likely to get any, although officials are still working toward that goal. “They [residents without water] are not less important,” said Magistrate Michael Riggs. “The problem is, how do you afford to build a line to them and keep it in the budget?” A good question, Carriss said. “It would take about a mile of water line for them,” he said.  Deputy County Judge-Executive Rusty Newton agreed  that the water needs of every resident is important. “We are always thinking of ways to get water to everybody,” he said.