Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette The Leitchfield Utilities Commission on Thursday voted to raise its water rates.

Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette

The Leitchfield Utilities Commission on Thursday voted to raise its water rates.

The Leitchfield Utilities Commission on Thursday voted to increase water rates, partially in preparation for the upcoming construction of a new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant.

During its regularly scheduled meeting, the Utilities Commission reviewed the four unofficial bids for the construction of a new Leitchfield water treatment plant. The project was originally estimated to cost around $8 million dollars, but when bids were opened Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m., all four came in at least $3 million above that price.

The four bids, listed in ascending order, are as follows:

Smith Contractors, Inc., of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky: $11,381,000

Judy Construction Company, of Cynthiana, Kentucky: $11,849,000

Dugan & Meyers Construction Company, of Cincinnati, Ohio: $12,081,000

W. Rogers Company, of Lexington, Kentucky: $12,296,000

Despite the project coming in over budget, Leitchfield Utilities Chairman Bob Crawford said the utilities recognize the necessity of constructing a new water treatment plant, as the current 50-year-old plant is nearing the end of its lifespan.

"I don't think inaction or cancellation is really an option," Crawford said, adding that the new plant would ensure Leitchfield Utilities continues to provide water services for another 40 to 50 years.

In order to ensure the project is funded, Leitchfield Utilities officials say water and sewer rates must be increased. On Thursday, Crawford presented the initial proposed water rate increase for the utilities commissioners' review.

For water customers who live within the city of Leitchfield, the current minimum bill, $16.40 for the first 2,000 gallons of water, will increase to $17.76 for the first 2,000 gallons.

After that, the rate for the next 8,000 gallons will increase from $7.39 to $8; the rate for the next 40,000 gallons will increase from $5.03 to $5.45; and all over 50,000 gallons will increase from $3.70 to $4.01.

For customers who live outside the city limits of Leitchfield, the current minimum bill, $18.04 for the first 2,000 gallons of water, will increase to $19.54 for the first 2,000 gallons.

After that, the rate for the next 8,000 gallons will increase from $8.13 to $8.80; the rate for the next 40,000 gallons will increase from $5.53 to $6; and all over 50,000 gallons will increase from $4.07 to $4.41.

The Utilities Commission then voted to approve the new water rates as presented, and they will go into effect in the December billing cycles.

These will not be the only increase in water rates. Utilities Attorney David Vickery said the new rates will help Leitchfield Utilities catch up on what its water rates should already be.

Crawford said the rates will be increased further as the water plant project progresses, but Leitchfield Utilities wishes to gradually increase the rates over a period of time, as opposed to implementing one large increase.

The new sewer rates will be presented to the Utilities Commission for review at its next meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6.

The above bids remain unofficial as none of them has been accepted. The Commission is waiting to accept a bid until Cann-Tech, the engineering firm that designed the new water treatment plant, can confirm financing options for the project with USDA Rural Development.

Leitchfield Utilities had already received approval for a 30-percent-grant/70-percent-loan financing strategy from Rural Development; however, this was for the estimated $8 million price tag.

Larry Cann, Principal in Charge of Cann-Tech, said now remains the best time to move forward with the project, given the amount of funding already promised to the utilities and the amount of funding still available for projects such as these.

Additionally, he said the bids' coming in over budget is not surprising, and Rural Development was expecting it, so extra funding to compensate for the increased cost while still keeping the 30-percent-grant/70-percent-loan ratio is available.

Cann said Cann-Tech should have updated financing numbers within the next week.