By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
If you want to build in Olive Hill, you better make sure you’re doing it on a lot that already has a sewer tap. If you aren’t, you’re out of luck, because according to information shared at the last city council meeting, the city has been banned by the state from adding any new sewage taps for the past several years.
The problem is no one knew about it until now.
The issue came up when Jeremy Rayburn, with Rayburn Investments, decided he wanted to build a new automated car wash in the town. But, when Rayburn went to get a sewage permit for the planned facility, he was told none were available because of no capacity at the treatment plant. He said he was told at the time that he couldn’t use the existing water facilities on the site or expand the sewage use because of a ban in Frankfort, but he said he was told later the issue was related to water leaks, not problems with treating the car wash gray water.
Rayburn came to council with the issue, he said, because he needs an answer soon, so he knows whether to proceed with the project or to cancel it and focus his energy elsewhere.
Mayor Jerry Callihan told Rayburn he should have an answer for him by the end of the week, blaming the problem on a previous mayor who agreed to a tap ban rather than paying a fine at the time.
No one knew about the issue, he said, other than previous mayor Danny Sparks. He explained that any new construction in the city since Sparks ended his tenure have been on lots with existing taps, so no one had encountered the issue until now.
Councilman Justin Dixon wondered how, with so many existing taps currently unused, the state could say there would be too much discharge. While Callihan couldn’t answer that question – noting that Dixon was correct about the flow and capacity of their current treatment facility – he did say the current ban “should have never been agreed to.”
City clerk Chimila Hargett said they actually discovered the issue just before Rayburn came to the city for his permits. She said the current administration became aware of it when they couldn’t get a tap for a sno-cone stand to process “five gallons of water a week.”
She said before they could take action to begin remedying the situation they then received the car wash request.
Though the sno-cone stand was eventually able to gain permission because their flow was so low, Rayburn said he was told any facility using more than 30,000 gallons of water was shot down. If he had to build his own treatment center, he said, it would be too cost prohibitive to proceed.
Callihan said that shouldn’t be necessary, noting that the city could use Rayburn’s gray water for the treatment of black water – another name for raw human waste – rather than drawing that water from Tygart Creek.
But, he said, he wasn’t sure exactly what the time frame from Frankfort would look like when it came to reversing the issue.
In related news the council heard from representatives with Trane on the water treatment plant update, and voted to approve the request from Trane for payment of a $240,000 disbursement. Callihan said he would also be reaching out to the company for personnel and equipment assistance to check for possible leaks and infiltration into old water lines.
Council also heard from library director Matt Parsons on the request for additional funding for library staff, but councilman Eric Rayburn said he would like to see fiscal court’s full commitment first.
Callihan told Parsons that, if he could wait until this week, he would add the issue to a special session of city council he was requesting this week to discuss a FIVCO sewage upgrade grant. If fiscal court cemented their commitment before then, he said, he would have the library added to that agenda.
The council also heard an update on the Eagle Scout project in town park, and discussed the provisional use of property on Town & Country Lane for a residential treatment facility.
That plan, which council failed to approve at a previous meeting, was back on the agenda after the property owner caught up on all outstanding business license fees and occupational taxes.
But, Callihan said, though he didn’t have a vote as city council members did, he was, “personally against it,” stating the facility “shouldn’t be in the middle of town.”
Instead, the mayor said, he felt it should be out in the country, where the patients can’t walk away and get into trouble.
But councilman Justin Dixon said no matter what their personal feelings were, he wasn’t sure if they could legally refuse them the provisional use. Councilperson Shannon Shutte asked about the need to get permission from surrounding property owners, but it was unnecessary as Rayburn’s motion to approve the conditional use died for lack of a second.
Council also heard from Carter County Judge Executive candidate Duane Suttles, who discussed the county’s responsibilities on issues like animal control and the library, and other areas where the citizens of both cities feel as though they are being taxed twice for services – once as residents of the county and again as residents of the city.
Suttles said, if elected, he would “guarantee you there will be a line of communication between my office and the cities,” and that he will work to “move this county forward.”
Council also moved to set trick-or-treat for Halloween, Monday, October 31, from 6 – 8 p.m.
Shutte also encouraged those who lived in neighborhoods that “don’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters” to donate (candy or funds) to neighborhoods that do.
Council also held their first reading of a new property tax, moving to accept the compensating rate of .223 – a decrease of .009 from last year’s tax rate of .232 – which while lower is still expected to bring in $6,000 over the previous year because of business growth in the community.
Council is expected to pass that tax rate on second reading in a special meeting scheduled for this evening, Wednesday, September 28.
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