ELKINS -The city of Elkins still has "a few hurdles" to overcome before bids can be put out for construction of a new water treatment plant, officials said.
A letter to the city from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office in Elkins, dated Dec. 19, provided a list of tasks that need to be completed before the USDA's Rural Utilities Service can authorize bidding of the construction contracts.
"It started out as a five- or six-page document, and over time you check off things," Bob Pingley, the city's operations manager, said. "To boil this down to a nutshell, we're down to just a few hurdles to clear to put this thing out for bids."
The primary remaining issues include acquiring all necessary "stormwater permits for the construction" and all necessary "highways permits," Pingley said. "Those two we're still working on."
Land acquisitions is "probably one of our biggest remaining issues to be cleared up," he said. "We've got some land we've still got to acquire up on the hill up there (where the plant will be constructed)."
The largest hurdle remaining will be gaining the state's approval to begin the project, Pingley said.
"The biggest gorilla in that room is still (state Public Service Commission) approval. That's out of our hands, it's in the PSC's hands," Pingley told City Council members on Dec. 19. "We're going to hold the candle on our end and narrow down to just a very few items on the list.
"We are making progress. It's probably not as quick as any of us want to see but unfortunately some of these things are pretty drawn out."
City officials had hoped to begin construction on the water plant this past fall.
Earlier this year, the PSC ruled that Elkins could raise water rates over three stages. Elkins officials sought a rate increase to help pay for the $31 million plant. City leaders were disappointed in the decision, however, as the PSC decided that the city's water rates would actually decrease in the first two stages for residents and businesses, and then rise dramatically in the third stage.
The third stage will commence once the Elkins water plant project is substantially completed. In this third and final stage, residential and customer rates will rise 62 percent, while PSD rates will increase 200 percent.
In other city of Elkins news:
Pingley said the efforts to demolish the old city garages on 11th Street are underway.
"We have two metal buildings, the old water garage and the old sanitation garage, (and) in the last few months we've stripped everything out of those except the metals," Pingley said. "They're basically nothing but metal shelves. We're going to scrap it out, take the scrap to a local yard.
"In the old street garage, we're going to have to do the asbestos," Pingley said, noting that Council voted in November to approve $10,000 for use in asbestos abatement, and that a company will examine the structure. "If there is some, we'll have to abate. If not, perhaps we can use the rest of that $10,000 to take it down.
"Our intent is to take the buildings down and leave it flat for the time building," Pingley said. "We will have a 24-inch raw water line coming through the edge of that property. That's the perfect place for a lay-down area for a construction company, especially with the concrete in place. That makes it an all-weather site.
"The pipe that's being installed is heavy and large; you need a large, solid area to be able to handle it. I really think that us being able to offer this to the construction company will result in a reduction (in installation costs)."