$44,000 spent, but drainage study still incomplete

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Years-old contract includes terms for levee certification

By Shannon Brock

An active contract still exists between the city, county and a Frankfort engineering firm to perform the certification of the levee surrounding Taylorsville, even though the city has been told the funding for which it has applied cannot be used for those purposes.
Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay and former Spencer County Judge-Executive David Jenkins signed a contract in 2010 with DLZ, an engineering firm based in Frankfort, to complete a drainage study on Houston Court and for levee certification.
Originally, $750,000 had been earmarked at the federal level for Taylorsville for these projects. The city also applied for $250,000 in additional grant funding, bringing the total for the projects to $1 million.
However, when the Obama administration came into office and earmarks became a thing of the past, those monies were put under the umbrella of FEMA, which has complicated the application process, said City Clerk Steve Biven.
The city was made aware that the funding could not be used for levee certification or deferred maintenance on the levee, but has continued pursuing the funds for the Houston Court drainage project and other drainage related issues, Biven said.
But a new contract has not been generated to reflect that.
“It’s reflected, not contractually, but in that we were told we can’t use the money for that purpose,” Biven said.
Since the contract was signed in 2010, the city and county have combined to spend $44,647.72, an amount recently called into question by City Commissioner Ellen Redmon.
The two government agencies agreed to split initial costs up to $44,793.72 — just $146 away from what has already been spent — with the understanding that it could be reimbursed when the grants are approved.
Redmon, a resident of Houston Court, asked at the city’s regular December meeting what the $44,000-plus has generated and called for a meeting with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DLZ, Spencer County, Kentucky Emergency Management and the levee commission to get an update on the status of the project.
That meeting is still planned to happen, Biven said. It is tentatively scheduled for the third week of this month.
Asked specifically what the city and county have to show for their expenditures, Biven said a collection of data that is necessary to meet FEMA requirements.
When the project was initiated, FEMA sent intergovernmental review letters to any agency that might be affected, including the Department of Transportation, the Division of Water and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Fish and Wildlife had concerns on the affect the project would have on the Indiana bat population as well as clover, Biven said. This resulted in two unforeseen studies, the cost of which factors into the $44,647.72 that has already been spent.
Biven acknowledged that the process has been slow, but said it’s not something the city has control over.
“When you’re using other people’s money, you have to follow their rules,” Biven said.
The city has not yet received any part of the $1 million grant funds.
DLZ, the engineering firm, has been primarily focused on helping the city complete the FEMA application.
Currently, the city is awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project.
“Once the Corps signs off [on the project] and issues a permit, we move to the funding stage, which is a whole new phase,” Biven said.
Part of the hold up in getting a permit from the Corps is the underdetermined scope of the project. Additional studies, including sending cameras through the pipes in the Houston Court area and near the levee, must be conducted to determine exactly what the project will entail and how extensive the repairs will be, Biven said.
The last element requested by the Corps was a jurisdictional survey, which has been completed and turned in.
Biven said a new contract can be developed when the project moves into the funding stage and additional surveys are done to create the details of the work needed.
Biven said he’s optimistic that stage will come soon.