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City denies responsibility for water leak

Landlord says utilities were reconnected when no one was home

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

If you ask the city to turn your water on, it’s your responsibility to make sure none of the taps have been left open inside the house. That’s the message mayor Jerry Callihan and Olive Hill council had for one upset property owner who wanted the city to not only cover damages to her property, but to pay her tenant’s utility bill for power used to dry the trailer out.

A mobile home owner, who identified herself as Jeannie Burchett, came to council last Tuesday to ask the city for compensation for her damages and to complain about lack of communication from the mayor and city staff.

Burchett said she was renting the recently renovated trailer to a tenant who had trouble getting their water turned on.

After repeated attempts, she said, they were told someone would come out on a Tuesday to turn the water on. She said her tenant made plans to be there on the Tuesday. But instead, she said, the water was turned on Monday, when no one was in the trailer. As a result, she said, the trailer was flooded because of an open tap inside the home.

Much of the recent remodeling work was ruined as a result, she said. After the incident, Burchett added, she attempted to contact the mayor to discuss the issue but said she was unable to contact him. She said she also left several messages with the city clerk that also went unanswered. She said she did have contact with employees at the utility department, but they were unable to satisfy her requests.

She said she was upset when her tenant received a bill for the utilities she had turned on, particularly the electric, even though they’d never taken up residence in the trailer. She complained about that as well, she said, and continued to wait for contact back from the mayor’s office.

“To this day I haven’t heard back from the mayor or the clerk,” Burchett said.

Councilman Eric Rayburn asked Burchett how the city was responsible for a leak that occurred inside her property, and Burchett said she felt they were responsible because they showed up earlier than she was told they would arrive.

Mayor Jerry Callihan, however, said the city doesn’t schedule appointments for utility reconnections. They get to them as soon as possible after they are requested, he said.

Despite this, Burchett said she thought the city should be responsible for the damages as well as the utility bills for the water and energy used to dry the property out.

Councilwoman Shannon Shutte, however, said the city was not responsible for damages to private property.

City attorney Derrick Willis said if Burchett wished to file a claim with the city’s insurance agency, he could give her the contact information for the Kentucky League of Cities. Then, he said, her insurance company could take the issue up with the city’s insurance agency.

When Burchett persisted city clerk Chimila Hargett said that employees with the utility department had already communicated this process to Burchett.

Willis then reiterated the process.

“We don’t cut you a check,” Willis said. “That’s what insurance does.”

Burchett was not satisfied with the process offered by Willis and Hargett, however, and told the mayor and council she would be raising the issue with friends “in Frankfort.”

In other action council moved to appoint Karen Dixon and Justin Dixon to the planning board and the planning and zoning commission. After Karen and Justin were sworn in to their new roles, Willis swore in councilman Chris Bledsoe. Bledsoe was not present at the previous council meeting when the other council members were sworn in.

Council also heard an update on the water project. The next step there is for the electrician to come in after the generator – which is still delayed – has been delivered. Delivery date on that piece of equipment has now been pushed out to April. Once that arrives work is expected to finish within the next month, unless they run into additional supply line issues.

Max Hammond also discussed the plan for allowing solar credits with council, if the Olive Hill Center for Arts & Education moves forward with the installation of solar panels. He said from his reading the contract wouldn’t require the city to buy power the CFAE added to the grid, but it allows the city to offer credits.

“We hope (AEP) would be forward thinking enough (to allow credits),” Hammond said.

Travis Duncan, pastor at Redeeming Grace Church of God, also spoke to council about his plans for a crisis aid center, The Mission. Duncan already has non-profit status for the organization, and plans to use the building that currently houses his barber shop to provide food pantry services as well as hot meals and shelter during disasters or weather emergencies. It would not be a full time shelter, he said, but could provide a space for displaced folks to take a hot shower, eat a meal, and find a warm bed during emergency situations such as natural disasters or severe weather events.

Serving hot meals and providing food pantry services would be regular features for the space, he said.

Callihan told Duncan he didn’t believe the organization needed council approval, but Duncan said he still wanted to make sure the city was aware of his plans for the space.

Hargett said the only approval Duncan might need from the city would be construction permits when any remodeling or building work was done on the property, and a fire safety inspection.

Council also approved a request for the next disbursement on the energy savings project, and approved the final disbursement for the downtown water project before going into executive session.

After returning from executive session council moved to adjourn with no further action taken.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com



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