JONESVILLE - The Lee County Public Service Authority should consider rate increases for the Central Lee and Eastern Lee water systems, and possibly the Jasper water system as well, engineer Bobby Lane told the PSA board of directors during a recessed meeting Wednesday.
Lane said rates on those systems are lower than other systems in the county, and all are operating in the red. By equalizing rates, much of the red ink could be erased, he said.
After it was noted that other systems have a marginal cash flow despite their rates, board member Mark Carter observed that the authority needs to analyze all its systems that are losing money and "see what we need to do to correct that because they should all cash flow."
During a lengthy discussion, Lane offered to look at each project individually and bring a written report to the board's February meeting.
Director James "Doc" Parsons pointed out that water loss is one of the biggest costs to the authority and said the Keokee water system is probably the worst because it purchases water for that system from the town of Appalachia at a higher rate than the authority pays to supply other systems.
"We get a double whammy there, and I don't believe we'll get (water loss) under control there until we replace the line," he said.
Lane said Virginia Rural Water will provide free leak testing and added that the agency is in nearby Big Stone Gap this week. He offered to contact officials to see if a crew can come to Keokee to assist in a leak detection program. The authority accepted that offer and another from Lane to see if he can obtain funding to replace lines. During a discussion of that issue, the authority considered using a force account crew to replace the line if funds for the piping can be found.
Lane explained that some funding agencies will provide funding for a force account crew to work on small projects, and recently Rural Development has agreed to consider funding such work if the authority can prove it has capable crews and suitable equipment for the jobs being considered. The engineer added that a new funding cycle begins in March for most funding agencies and said he will seek money for the Keokee line replacement.
The authority then approved a motion to advertise for a small excavator and a backhoe to do the work.
After a discussion on delinquent accounts, Parsons reported that he has sent out letters to a large number of delinquent account holders and has had some response. The director said he will obtain warrants in the next week or two against those who have not responded positively to the letters.
Before entering a closed session to discuss personnel, litigation and contracts, the board approved a motion to have Parsons provide progress reports on the financial audit at each of the February and March meetings then have a complete audit started in April.