On Tuesday, the Pike County Fiscal Court was joined by Mountain Water District officials as the court acknowledged receipt of the district’s 2020 budget. Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones also took an opportunity to discuss some of the issues the district is facing, while also commending its work regarding its capital improvement plan.

According to Jones, recently, he and Commissioner Ronnie Robertson met with district leadership and despite the fact that MWD did not have a capital improvement plan to replace aging infrastructure in place, when he and the rest of the court first entered office, Jones said he commends the district for what they have done to look into addressing those issues.

“We’ve had some pretty good discussions about the future of Mountain Water,” Jones said. “And I think it’s fair to say that you all are facing some significant challenges as well.”

The district, according to MWD General Manager Roy Sawyers, is moving forward with its capital improvement plan. During the district’s recent meeting, the board approved its contract with Bell Engineering and EDC, the firms tasked with assisting the district with its plan.

Sawyers said some of the district’s leadership met with the Public Service Commission on Dec. 9, a meeting Jones said he believed the PSC was “fairly impressed” with and noted that MWD Operations Manager David Taylor deserves to be commended for his work on its capital plan.

“David knows the district in and out,” Jones said. “He’s a smart guy and he’s committed to the district. He’s put a lot of elbow grease and a lot of hard work into that plan.”

Jones said one thing that concerns the court is the district’s 37 percent water loss, a percentage that is largely due to service line issues, according to Sawyers.

“75 percent of that loss came from customer

service lines,” Sawyers said.

The biggest problem, according to Jones, is that MWD has no money set aside to replace aging infrastructure, some of which is nearly 50 years old. Factoring in the district’s 37 percent water loss, Jones said, the fastest return on its ratepayers’ investment would be to reduce the water loss. Sawyers said he agreed, something to which MWD leadership has alluded to in recent meetings.

Sawyers said that currently the district doesn’t have sufficient reserves to combat all the problems with MWD’s infrastructure as it uses available funds for repair and maintenance.

Another issue MWD Chairman Mike Blackburn and Jones said, was the fact the district has went from 1995 to 2015 without a rate increase, something that may change soon, as the district recently approved Sawyers to prepare an RFQ (Request for qualification) for a rate case study.

According to Sawyers, the district has began taking the necessary steps to trying to combat the issues facing the district and now that district has completed its contract Bell Engineering and EDC work should begin in the near future.

Jones also discussed a recent meeting with City of Pikeville Mayor Jimmy Carter and City Manager Phillip Elswick, which he called positive and he added that there’s hope the district’s disagreement with Pikeville concerning its request extending the two entity’s contract 40 years, gets resolved.

“I want to personally thank Mayor Carter for taking the time to come over,” Jones said. “I think there’s a path to where we can work through this.”

If a resolution is not agreed upon, the district could be at risk of losing a more than $300,000 loan, something for which the district has begun preparing as it also approved Sawyers to begin looking into possible alternatives during another recent meeting.

The court voted to acknowledge receipt of the district’s 2020 budget. However, that did not end the court’s discussion, as Jones said the court had received a letter of resignation from former MWD Vice Chairman Eddie Hurley, leaving a vacancy on its board.

To fill the remaining term, which he said expires in 2022, Jones nominated Randy Tackett, a civil engineer with a background in the coal mining workforce.

“I think it’s important when you bring civil engineering experience and I think that’s the kind of expertise that we need on the MWD board,” Jones said.

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