Water issues dominate Bath council meeting
Bath Town Council is wrestling with several water problems that will require another large water line replacement project to solve.
Since the completion of the recent water line replacement project downtown, many leaks have developed in areas outside of the project's boundaries. According to Mayor Susan Webster, the increased water pressure created by fixing the lines downtown has caused older lines outside of the downtown area to fail.
Leaks have occurred on U.S. 522 South and Concord Avenue near Berkeley Springs High School, on Harrison Avenue, Biser Street and in the Jimstown area.
Because of the continuing problem with leaks, the water moratorium
that has been in effect for the last
two years cannot be lifted. There are currently 400 requests for new water taps that are on hold due to the moratorium.
The water line replacement project downtown has improved the situation. Chief Water Operator Terry Largent said that pumps that were running 24 hours a day and pumping 800,000 gallons of water a day before the completion of the project are now running 21 hours a day and pumping 625,000 gallons a day.
Webster said Largent believes a new project to replace another 21,000 linear feet of water line to outside areas is needed to correct the problems.
Geert Bakker, Chief Utilities Manager, Assistance Section Water & Waste Water Division of the West Virginia Public Service Commission briefed council at the November 6 meeting on the results of a survey done by the PSC this summer of the town's water operations.
Bakker said the survey included a rate study using figures from fiscal year 2006. Based on the study's findings, Bakker recommended that council increase water rates by one percent.
Bakker said the survey also looked at a flat rate scenario. Bakker told council that a flat rate of $7.74 per 1,000 gallons of water would bring in the same amount of revenue as the current rate structure.
Webster said that a one percent increase probably wasn't worth the time and effort. In order for the town to increase rates, a new ordinance had to be written and public hearings held prior to a vote to pass the ordinance.
Councilman David Crosby estimated that only 27 percent of customers would see a benefit from the $7.74 flat rate. Crosby said he is looking at how a flat rate could decrease the bills for 50 percent of customers.
Bakker said it was more realistic to think in terms of not increasing water bills for 50 percent of customers.
New water project needed
Council agreed that a new water project was needed to replace water lines outside of the downtown area.
In order to fund a new water line replacement project, the town would have to apply for a new grant or borrow the money. The recently completed project cost $2.48 million.
Webster said that rates may have to be adjusted to allow for some debt service before applying for a grant or loan. Other suggestions from council were increasing the tap fee and charging impact fees to developers. The tap fee is currently set at $577.50.
Crosby said the water plant itself needed to be expanded to handle future demand. But he questioned if "it is
fair to increase rates for current customers to pay for handling future customers."
When asked if the PSC had any
limits to what rates the town could impose, Bakker said the PSC has no jurisdiction over rates set by municipalities. Bakker said the PSC would only have jurisdiction if 25 percent of water customers in a municipality objected to new rates.
Council will continue to review their options.
Police win award
For the third year in a row, Berkeley Springs Police Department has been awarded the Platinum Community Traffic Safety Award by the American Automobile Association (AAA). The platinum award is AAA's most prestigious honor. Martinsburg and Wardensville were the only other platinum award winners in the region.
Chief Jim Minton said the department is continuing to work on training and equipping an auxiliary police unit. A car that was donated for the unit has been painted and will be equipped with a radio. The cost of painting was $300 and insurance for the additional car is $800.
Council asked Minton to look into liability insurance for the auxiliary officers. The four officers, Daryl Lay, Jim Slough, Gene Kilduff and Helen Wulzer were activated to help with traffic during the Apple Butter Festival.
Minton reported that everything ran smoothly Halloween night and there were no reports of vandalism or problems with the increased pedestrian traffic.
Webster said that two speed bumps, 15 mph speed limit signs and Children at Play signs have been installed on Rockwell Street to slow traffic. Two additional street lights are also on order from Allegheny Power. Corporal Craig Pearrell said that traffic problems have calmed down on Rockwell Street.
Herb Eppinger of Rockwell Court requested in a letter that another street light be ordered for the court. Council said they would investigate the lighting there.
West Virginia State Auditor Amanda Sites completed an audit of the town's books for fiscal years 2005 - 2006. Crosby said that Sites was pleased with the town's management of money and complimented Town Clerk Margie Allgyer on her efforts.
Councilwoman Nancy Harvey reported that Municipal Code Corporation of Florida (Municode) had completed a draft of the town's new code book. A meeting is set for November 19 in the office of Attorney Richard Gay to review the draft with Dan Walker of Municode.
4-H club to decorate tree
Andrew Brock of Settler's 4-H Club wrote a letter to Mayor Webster and appeared before council asking if the club could decorate a holiday tree for birds on Fairfax Square.
The decorations would include peanut butter and birdseed dipped pine cones, grapefruit halves filled
with birdseed, birdseed balls and
popcorn and cranberry garland.
Brock said the decorations would attract many different types of birds to the square.
Council voted to allow the club to decorate the tree that stands in front of the town's Christmas tree. The 4-Hers will have the tree decorated for the holidays by December 9.