Water problems, crew shortage dominate council meeting

Posted November 9, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Albany City Council held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday, November 2, with just enough members–four–to constitute a quorum.

A major portion of the meeting pertained to water leaks across the county and specifically in an area at Bald Rock, when a resident of that community, Ray Vilbert, again addressed the council about the problems of having low water pressure and, many times, no water at all.

The situation in that area has been an ongoing problem for quite some time, and the discussion led to talk of water leakage issues, the possibility of some water theft in some areas, and lack of employee help in the water department.

Vilbert, who has addressed the council with patience on previous occasions, said he was without water and again mentioned other areas in similar situations.

David Guffey, with the Albany Water Department, said it boiled down to the department not having enough help. He also noted they have worked on finding the problems, sometimes with the assistance from Rural Water, but have yet to locate the exact area in order to repair it.

Vilbert questioned if the city was losing as much (water) as they were selling and why wouldn’t it be feasible to hire a contractor to come in and fix the problem?

Councilwoman Sarah Browning also again mentioned the Kentucky WREN program, saying that agency may be able to help. Apparently it contracts workers at around $25 per hour to work on such water related problems.

Guffey noted there were two current water department employees certified to use backhoes, but he could use at least two more employees to help work while the backhoes are being used. He also noted there was only one trailer to haul a backhoe at any given time.

City Clerk/Treasurer Melissa Smith noted that “Nobody wants to work.”

The question of the status of drive-by meter reading was then asked of the city’s engineer, David Bowles of Monarch, who said that project was still “months and months” down the road.

Vilbert said the problem was that they couldn’t get water to the nearby pump station, with Bowles noting that just one major leak could cause that problem. He added that the problem could be caused by a theft or illegal theft of water, which he said in those situations, it would be almost impossible to find.

Bowles further stated that having Rural Water come back in and look at the problem would help.

Guffey told the council that the water department has been short on help for years. He said they started out with eight employees, and at that time they weren’t reading meters and were available to work in other needed areas.

Bowles also told the council they would be better off for the city to hire its own staff, and Councilman Gene Ferrill suggested hiring or training more backhoe operators.

Guffey, who noted they needed to find the leak between the water valves, and Councilwoman Tonya Thrasher both agreed that Vilbert had been very patient throughout his ordeal with the water shortage, but Vilbert added his “patience had been wearing thin.”

Albany Mayor Lyle Pierce said the city would try and hire some more help and lease a backhoe. Also, he said Rural Water, which has equipment to help detect leaks, would again be asked for its assistance.

Bowles again noted that if there was an “illegal” hook-up, they would probably never find it.

He did not, however, that with the new water line project coming in the Duvall Valley area, hopefully beginning sometime next year, there will be all new hook-ups to the new lines to keep that from happening. He further added that the leak causing the problem in the Bald Rock area in question “could be far away” from the Bald Rock area itself.

Once the discussion on the water problem issues was through, Councilwoman Browning brought forth another issue she and Councilman Joe Stockton seemed concerned with, that being the alleged use of city vehicles by city employees for their own personal business.

Browning questioned Mayor Pierce as to whether or not there was a penalty against an employee who uses a city vehicle for person use to which the mayor replied, “We can take it away from them.”

Council members Stockton and Browning said they had been shown pictures by an unnamed resident of such activity taking place and questioned the city’s liability in such a situation.

Mayor Pierce requested Browning bring the pictures and the name of the person who took it to him, prompting Browning to ask “What does it matter who took it?”

The mayor did say any employee using a city vehicle for their own use could be stopped from using the vehicle for anything other than city business only.

Stockton said the picture he saw showed people (employees) hauling personal property.

In other business:

* The council, on a motion by Councilwoman Thrasher, voted unanimously to approve second and final reading of an ordinance to amend the budget to include $259,217.96 in federal American Rescue funds as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those funds are earmarked for specific use, such as infrastructure needs in the city.

* Bowles told the council that of the four major water related projects, there was still no change from last month, primarily due to government red tape, but all are proceeding forward.

* Luther “Hoppy” Conner, who owns and apparently plans to develop land near the city’s water plant, asked Bowles if he could help in finding plats showing where water lines, etc. are on the property.

Bowles said he should request most of that information from the city, which has more knowledge of the area, but did note that Monarch Engineers would supply whatever they could to assist in Conner’s request.

The next regular meeting of Albany City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, December 7, at 5 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall and is open to the general public.