HAZARD — A community in Perry County is still waiting for city water to be available to its residents — many of whom do not have clean drinking water unless it comes from a bottle.
The Herald reported earlier this month that the residents of Fort Branch were without clean, usable water, and had been in that situation for more than three years. Tony Lewis, a resident of the community and former Perry County PRIDE coordinator, said the community would have a representative at every Perry County Fiscal Court meeting until their water issues were resolved.
This week, Fort Branch resident Misty Feltner attended the meeting to get an update on how things were moving along with the water plans.
“There’s approximately 188 individuals, now that does include the church population up in the head of the holler, but still you know there’s a lot of individuals that could really use this water,” Feltner spoke to the court, presenting them with a water service agreement with signatures from 34 households on Fort Branch.
“We do have one resident at this time that does not have running water, and as the summer goes those numbers are going to raise because people’s wells dry up,” she added.
Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said the application for monies from Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) was denied because the mines in Fort Branch were not eligible.
“Abandoned Mines turned it down, I’ll tell you that upfront. Abandoned Mines refused to do it … due to that there was mining done after 1985 and they call that pre-law, and that was the deep mining I guess around Bull Creek. With anything done after 1985 they don’t approve it,” he explained.
Noble said AML will most likely approve another, neighboring community to Fort Branch, though.
“On the other side of the mountain, I can tell you that Abandoned Mines is still looking at approving down below you. So, we’ll save $180,000 for Slabtown,” he said.
If Slabtown receives the AML funding, then the county will have that much more money to put towards other projects, like the Fort Branch water project.
Noble also said he had received an updated estimate on the cost for the entire Fort Branch project, which will now cost $840,000 for the lines and the two pump stations required to bring the water up the mountain.
“What happened, I wanted to follow the road to hit them other three homes at the mouth of the holler, but there’s not enough residents in that area to keep that water (in the line) fresh, so they’re going to come across the river,” he explained. “They think it’s going to be cheaper going across the tracks and across the river, and then the water won’t get stagnant.”
Feltner reminded the court of the severe state the community’s water has been in for years, something Noble said he knew all too well about.
“I saw the sock over the spigot, coming from me I can tell you my water was the same way, it was like that before I got city water,” he said.
Jennifer McIntosh, with the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD), presented the court with an application for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the Fort Branch water project.
“I did up to a million just to cover whatever the amount is. We have to have the 50-50 match so whatever we can match with, but you can apply up to a million,” McIntosh said.
Noble said CDBG would most likely not award over $250,000.