After several Elkins City Council members voiced displeasure with the progress Chapman Technical Group is making with the engineering for a new water treatment plant, the Elkins Water Committee took action on Monday. Following a executive session, the committee passed a motion giving Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott permission to "take appropriate action with Chapman."
On the meeting agenda there were several items listed under the heading "Water Plant and Distribution Project." Before any of the items were discussed, the committee moved into an executive session.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman and Water Committee member Marilynn Cuonzo made a motion to allow the "mayor to take appropriate action with Chapman." The committee, however, did not discuss any specific type of action.
"It gives me the ability to take any action to move the project forward," Talbott told The Inter-Mountain following the meeting. Talbott would not comment on what the action could be.
Water Committee Chairman Tom Hensil also informed the committee the city will no longer move forward with trying to split the project into two phases. The city planned on applying for Build America Bonds to help reduce the cost of interest on the $28 million Rural Utility Service loan to pay for the new treatment plant.
Talbott said the city is not going to proceed with the bonds at this time because the timeline is too short.
"We cannot accomplish it in the time frame," Hensil explained.
Following the BAB announcement, Hensil told the committee the city's recently passed rate increase is in "limbo" with the West Virginia Public Service Commission. He said he believed the first step in the increase was approved but the second increase for next year was in question.
The first step in the increase - the 28 percent general rate increase - was a going rate increase to help the water fund from operating in the red. The increase scheduled for next year was to help pay on the $28 million loan. The increase was to help cover $13 million of the loan when the project was split into two phases.
Hensil said the city will have to talk with the WVPSC and try to see if the first phase of the increase was approved. He said City Council will have to take the matter up again in the future.
Elkins Water Treatment Plant Supervisor Mike Barkley also informed the committee that repairs on the plant will begin today. In 2007, emergency repairs were made to the plant, but part of that repair has failed.
"It was the grout that came out of the plastic bricks we put in," Barkley said on Monday. "We are going to start the repairs tomorrow. We will have to remove the plastic bricks and put in new tiles next week. We will grout the bricks back in with the proper grout."
Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said the material in the No. 4 filter will have to be replaced and his best guess to make the repair will cost the city around $20,000.
"We don't have any other choice," Pingley told Water Committee members. "This is why we have to keep pushing forward with the new plant."
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