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Jellico Utility gloomy over financial state

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By Natasha LaFayette

natasha@lafollettepress.com  

A discussion on finances left the Jellico Electric and Water System Board of Directors feeling sullen about the water system’s financial situation.

General Manager for Jellico utility Mike Bethurem addressed the vehicle depreciation funds for both the water and electric systems. While the electric system is in good standing, the water system is preparing to pay out large amounts of money for construction  improvements.

“I recommend that we move it all into our bank account,” said Bethurem about the money in the water system’s vehicle depreciation fund.

The water system is responsible for a share of the CDBG project for sewer line replacement, totaling $30,000, and will need the funds to make the contribution, according to Bethurem. The total project cost is about $280,000.

“We are running really short on funds right at the moment and I didn’t want to tie it up on a CD,” said Bethurem.

Board member Jerry Neal questioned what the water system would do when it has depleted the money in the depreciation fund.

Bethurem responded that the upcoming rate increase is the increase estimated to bring the system current. The last rate increase was only to slow down the loss of money.

“If we run out of funds you only have a couple choices,” said Bethurem. “One is to start laying people off and shut the doors and the other is to figure out how to fund it through some temporary funds.”

Bethurem reassured the board the water system should be stable this year. He has instructed everyone in the department not to spend money, he said.

“At least its going in the right direction,” said board member Eddie Barton. “We are not hemorrhaging as bad as we were.”

The board approved transferring the water system vehicle depreciation fund into the general fund.

In other business, Bethurem updated the board about Rarity Mountain’s fine of $200,000 by the office of surface mining being repaid through work done for the utility company.

Bethurem has identified the water main along Florence, from the water plant to the intersection of highway 297. Addition water mains may be identified along highway 297 as funds will allow.

The continuing conversation on adopting a purchasing policy came to an end at the meeting when the board approved the policy. The biggest challenge of implementing the policy is educating the staff on how to use the purchasing computer program.