Falmouth City Council listens to residents concerns

There was much business to attend to by Falmouth City Council at the Aug. 14, 2018 meeting that was not just focused on utility rates.

Mayor Stinson introduced a presentation by Brown Thornton, Representative of Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KyMEA), to give an update regarding the deadline with the Kentucky Utilities (KYU) contract.

“That contract ends in May 2019.” Thornton said. “At that point the City of Falmouth will be moving to KyMEA as its new provider of electricity along with ten other municipalities in the state.”

He continued, “This entire change over to the new provider has been in the works for some time.”

“In June there will be two bills for power for the city, one from KYU and one from KyMEA. Reason being KYU bills are for two months back. So in June 2019 the city will owe for May for both KyMEA and KYU. Following that payment by the city it is projected that the rates will decrease. They could be 15% less for the city. This savings can be passed on to the citizens for their electric bills.”

Thornton also said, “KyMEA has a portfolio of power resources including hydro electric and solar. The agency has new offices in Louisville with at planned open house in Sept.”

A proposed new ordinance for sewer and water rates is designed provide a gradual rate increase over a period of six months and get to an increase that will help the city dig out of its current condition, be in a position to get state and federal funds to redo the current sewer and water lines and rise above the patch-and-fix cash rat hole the city has been in for ten or more years.

Thornton was asked by Mayor Stinson, “What would you suggest the rates ought to be?” Thornton said, “Over the last three years the city’s expenses have exceeded it’s revenue. From worst to best, regarding income for all the city’s utilities, one moves from sewer to garbage to water-which holds its own- and last to electric which shows some profit.”

“The total investment in utilities, equipment, manpower, facilities and so on is worth around $20,000,000. The cost to maintain all this is about $400,000 per year. Also, the sewer rates as they stand are out of balance. They should be equal to or above the water rates. Consequently the increases need to be less for a water and more for sewer. Given these facts I can work up suggestions to clarify these rates for council.”

As a result of these points by Thornton it was agreed to present the first reading of the new ordinance at this meeting and have the second reading at the next meeting which would include the new rates.

Mayor Stinson called for audience questions and comments at this time. One question was simply, “Why do we have to have rate increases at all?” In response it was pointed out by several council members that the last rate increases for water were 2007, sewer was 2008, and electric was 2009. The bottom line is the city will go under if we do not do this. In short, previous councils have simply chosen not to raise them.

Another question was, “Have you reached out to others to get advice about these rates?” Attorney Voelker made it clear that he has looked at all the surrounding cities to help come up with these rates. And as you can see tonight we are still looking at possibilities. Also, Bill Mitchell, Director of Development for Pendleton County, has been in touch with a variety of sources all of which were published on face book.

Another asked, “When can we expect to see these fixes to the sewer and water systems in the city?” The mayor asked Mitchell to provide that overview.

Mitchell said, “In order to get ready for the fix of the water and sewer problems, there is a two year process leading up to construction. Presently we are waiting for the engineers to compile a report that will contain all the items that need fixing and a cost estimate. Council can pick and choose from the items on this list to come up with the areas that are in the most need of repair and fit the city’s projected budget”

Once that is done we take these plans to Frankfort and apply for a Kentucky Infrastructure Authority loan and a Community Development Block Grant. If approved we then call for bids followed by contracts to the company with the best bid and finally we get to ground breaking by 2020.”

Councilwoman Amy Hitch said, “No one wanted to raise rates. We had to, to save the city.”