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Elkins Council wants to see more from Chapman

October 1, 2010

With a water treatment plant in need of repairs only three years since its last emergency fix, Elkins Council members say they want to see more progress from the engineering firm they hired to correct the city's water issues. Council members voiced their displeasure Thursday about the progress of Chapman Technical Group, and Councilman Rob Beckwith, 1st Ward, even threatened to make a motion to void Chapman's contract if no progress is observed on the $28 million new water treatment plant and distribution system upgrades.

During his report to City Council, Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said the No. 4 filter at the water treatment plant is out of service due to a problem with the emergency repairs that were made in 2007. Pingley explained that the issue lies with a grout joint put in the filter during earlier repairs has failed. Pingley said the plant is currently producing enough water to meet demands but could have problems meeting demand this winter if current repairs to the system are not made.

"In winter, the water chemistry changes and the water is thicker and harder to filter," he said.

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Beckwith and city council discuss new water plant

Pingley said the issue will be taken to the Elkins Water Committee meeting on Monday for a detailed discussion.

Several council members expressed their concern to Pingley over the progress of the new plant and distribution system upgrades. They explained they do not believe Chapman is making adequate progress.

"Please inform Chapman that I want to see something within the next three weeks," Beckwith told Pingley. "I want to see progress ... or I think council should take action."

Councilwoman Hazel Burford, 2nd Ward, said over the last three years, Beckwith has voted against making payments to Chapman and others are jumping on board.

"Over the last three years, we had one no vote and now we have two now, possibly three or more," Burford said.

Second Ward Councilman Tom Hensil said the city should contact Chapman and explain their concerns.

"Tell them that there are members of council that will vote to void their contract," Hensil said.

"I would be willing to make that motion," Beckwith added. "It probably would not pass, but it would send a message."

Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott told council members that Chapman stays in close contact with him and the current holdup is waiting for USDA Rural Utility Service to split the funding into two phases so the city can apply for Build America Bonds. The bonds would save the city several million dollars in interest if approved.

"It is just time that something is done," Burford said. "All they (Chapman) have done is collect checks."

City Attorney Harry Smith said the city needs to check to see if Chapman is meeting their timeline before a threat to void their contract is issued.

"They are meeting the timeline they gave us a short time ago," Pingley told council. "I can honestly say I do not feel they have made the progress they should have."

Hensil said there have been several things that have delayed the progress.

"It is not all Chapman's fault," he said. "Other government agencies have thrown a wrench into it. I am not happy with the way things are going."

Beckwith said it was time that Chapman start working for the city.

"With our water plant acting up again, it is time to get something started," Burford added.

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