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Kentucky General Assembly passes bill to help financially struggling water districts

Senate Budget Committee holds a special meeting to take up last minute bills 03-28-24
Stu Johnson
Senate Budget Committee holds a special meeting to take up last minute bills 03-28-24

The state’s financial standing has given lawmakers the opportunity to initiate new initiatives, albeit sometimes debated as to where monies are appropriated. Legislation to establish the water and wastewater program got consensus backing. Mount Vernon GOP Representative Josh Bray said it will give financially struggling water districts access to capital while addressing pervasive sewer problems.

“If you’ve got a sewer district that overflows every time it rains, there could be considerable amounts of fines levied against it, it would provide a waiver for a better run utility to come in and acquire that provided they fix the issue, it would forgive all of that,” said Bray.

Bray said the emergency section of the new program would be administered by the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. He said water districts able to benefit from this new initiative are those that can’t leverage funding in other ways.

Hazard GOP Senator Brandon Smith said the need in Appalachian communities partly comes from topography challenges.

“For us a lot of the times in eastern Kentucky when we’re running a water line we have to pump it up a hill and then you have to slow it down the other side to try to get it to come down. It’s very expensive for us to do that. So these dollars are critical for us,” said Smith.

Smith said, likewise, sewer work is very expensive, so it’s important installing new water lines goes hand in hand with sewer work. HB 563 also provides for quick assistance when there are catastrophic incidents when water or sewer systems go offline.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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