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Town awaits water solution

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

The fate of the financially troubled Lovelaceville Water Company and its some 50 customers remains unclear as the search for a solution continues.

The future of the small, private water company continues to be in doubt after the owner, Eric Young, asked the Kentucky Public Service Commission to allow him to abandon operations because of financial hardship.

The commission conducted a public meeting last month to go over some of the options, including the formation of a county water district, having the customers form a water association or having customers be responsible for digging their own wells.

The meeting was the first step in a process that could take several months, according to Andrew Melnykovych, director of communications for the commission.

"To my knowledge, we haven't heard anything further (from either customers or Ballard County officials)," Melnykovych said. "Our next step will be to go to the utility, Mr. Young, and ask for some additional information."

Information on the company's finances, like accounts receivable, and the anticipated costs for necessary improvements "will give us a better picture of what the existing situation is and what it would take to make the utility viable," Melnykovych said.

Because he is a private owner, Young is not eligible for most government grants to upgrade the aging system. He also is unable to shut off service to customers who have not paid their bills because there are no locks on the meters.

"I think he has done the best he can with a difficult situation," Melnykovych said. "I think the people understand that."

Melnykovych admitted forming a water association could be expensive for customers, in legal start-up costs alone.

Ballard County Judge-Executive Vickie Viniard said the county has no money for a water district. And, even if another entity such as an existing water district would be interested in providing service, hooking onto the system is only part of the problem.

"Once you get that done (hooking on), then you've got problems with the lines which are so old ... it's really going to be an expensive project," Viniard said.

In years past, Kentucky's congressional representatives might have been able to earmark federal funding for such projects, "but they don't do that any more," said Viniard, indicating she would continue trying to help find a solution.

Brad Davis, associate director of the Purchase Area Development District's community and economic development division, agreed that over the years funds that might have been available for water projects such as Lovelaceville have been cut.

"There's just a lot less money, and it being a private system, it does limit what they might be eligible for," Davis said.

If no viable solution is found to continue operating the system, customers may have to take matters into their own hands, Melnykovych said.

"Digging their own wells is not the only option," Melnykovych said. "They could put in a cistern and haul water."

Hauling water might not be as expensive as digging a well, he said. 

But that option would have its challenges, too, according to Viniard.

"There's not that many people that haul water any more that I'm aware of," she said.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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