LANCASTER — Following a ruling by the state attorney general, the city of Lancaster was forced to turn over recordings from a January executive session where council members discussed the water contract between the city and the Garrard County Water Association.
While no members of the water association were invited to or present at the Jan. 14 meeting, the council chose to discuss the contract, which had been rejected by the association’s board.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funds.
The city has garnered more than $8 million from Rural Development, with a letter of conditions that stipulates the need for a signed contract between Lancaster and the water association by March 18, according to the city.
The city, which also sells water to Garrard County and Crab Orchard water customers, plans to use the money toward construction of a new water treatment plant, expected to cost about $12 million.
State-allocated funds, from House Bill 265, under the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority and a $2.5 million grant from the Economic Development Authority, which requires construction to begin by June 21, also have been granted to Lancaster, pending an agreement and action toward the plant.
On the recording of the Jan. 14 executive session, some council members express doubt the deadlines will be met and speculate what will happen if the city is forced to delay building the plant.
“We cannot keep going like we’re going. We’re going to get into trouble,” Councilman Chris Davis said during the Jan. 14 meeting, explaining that the plant was running at 70 percent capacity.
“If you get there, it’s time to upgrade ... we have no other option than to sell less water (to Garrard Water or Crab Orchard) to get back in to the comfortable zone.”
In a phone interview on Monday, Davis added that raising rates might be another option but not a desirable one.
On Jan. 21, the council approved hiring Damon Talley, an attorney who works with Kentucky Rural Water, to begin negotiating the contract with the Garrard County Water Association on behalf of the city.
Councilman Jeff Adams explained, via phone, that the council thinks hiring Talley would be the next best step, because it isn’t getting anywhere and Talley has experience negotiating contracts.
“That’s what he does for a living,” Adams said.
The conversation is ongoing, according to Garrard County Water Association President Paul Reynolds via phone, who explained that Talley is able to bring a great deal of insight and experience to the table.
That knowledge has been helpful, Reynolds explained, but said officials will continue working until they have an agreement that makes sense financially for all sides.
Reynolds said about three years have passed since discussions began on the possibility of a new plant.
“We’re trying to expedite this process, but at the same time, we’re not going to rush into any bad decisions,” Reynolds said.
Davis hopes an agreement can be reached soon, as it will benefit both the city and Garrard County to have the new plant.
“We’ll just see what happens with it,” he said.
During Monday night’s Lancaster City Council meeting, Water Plant Superintendent Troy Deshon said he has spoken with Talley, who is encouraged that a contract will be signed soon.