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December 15, 2012

Keyser sewer project qualifies for bay funding

KEYSER, W.Va. — Keyser officials continue to work on alternative sources of funding for the city’s sewer projects, Mayor Randy Amtower said at a city council meeting last week.

The city qualifies for funding from a Senate bill that addresses restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, according to Amtower.

“We were probably the luckiest ones out of the entire group that qualified for funding through Senate Bill 245,” he said. “Approximately 95 percent of our project was qualified for funding.”

Karol Ashenfelter, spokeswoman for Keyser Citizens for Fiscal Accountability, asked why the city couldn’t find funding similar to what Hardy County received for a $40.4 million Moorefield wastewater treatment plant.

Funding for that plant was finalized in March and includes $16 million through the state revolving fund and $5.5 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the State Journal. The project also includes $5 million from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, $4 million from the state Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, $6 million from lottery funding, smaller amounts from the DEP and the town of Moorefield and a $1.5 million in-kind contribution of the project site.

A representative of the legal firm Steptoe and Johnson is looking into the Economic Development Authority funding for the city, Amtower said.

“We don’t know where that is going to go yet,” said Amtower

The city has also made contact with Mark Yoder, utilities division chief for Allegany County, through Delegate Kevin Kelly and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office, according to Amtower. Dunn Engineers has submitted specifics of the sewer plant to Yoder as requested for Maryland’s allocation of funding. The city has made a request to the Maryland Department of the Environment for 13.4 percent in funding for the facility upgrade, which was referred to Yoder.

Amtower also plans to meet again with U.S. Rep. David McKinley in order to find sewer funds to meet federal mandates.

The new treatment plant will cost $26.2 million and is needed to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration mandates for limits on nitrogen and phosphorus. The current plant can’t meet the limits, which need to be met by Dec. 31, 2015.

Amtower asked McKinley why Keyser has to comply with Chesapeake Bay re-quirements when people sitting on the bay with septic tanks don’t. McKinley asked Amtower to compile information on what Allegany County has done, the cost of their facility, information on flush tax and demographics for both Mineral County and Allegany County.  

“I’m suppose to meet with McKinley once all that is compiled,” said Amtower. “What he is looking at is ways that he can help us address the regulation itself and stringents that are put on the regulation. Some of those we feel are unfair compared to the others.”

Council member Terry Liller said Dunn Engineering was good at cutting costs where needed.

“I feel confidant that what they are doing on behalf of Keyser is really in our best interest,” said Liller. “Every time we meet with them it seems like they have come up with ideas or methods they can use that will save us money.”

The West Virginia Public Service Commission approved a 12.01 percent sewer rate increase and 3.72 percent emergency interim water rate increase, which showed up on the December and November bills respectively.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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