Cumberland Times-News

October 29, 2013

Petition opposes sewer rate increase

Proposed hike would cover cost of new wastewater plant

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— KEYSER, W.Va. — Karol Ashenfelter, spokeswoman for Keyser Citizens for Fiscal Accountability, is circulating a petition opposing a proposed 96 percent sewer rate increase that would cover the costs of a new wastewater treatment plant.

The petition has been signed by about 150 residents in Keyser, McCoole and New Creek, according to Ashenfelter. She indicated that McCoole and New Creek are being included in the petition because they are resale customers and will be affected by a sewer rate increase.

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. Ashenfelter feels that a new plant isn’t needed.

“If nothing else, I would like to get another opinion,” said Ashenfelter. “People are pretty upset (about the increase).”

The first reading of the ordinance on the proposed sewer rate increase was held during the Oct. 23 council meeting.

The proposed increase could be less than 96 percent because it doesn’t factor in the $1 million that the city hopes to receive from the state Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, according to Mayor Randy Amtower. It does factor in about $10.3 million that the city will receive from Senate Bill 45, which addresses restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The bill could yield $11.3 million, but the total amount of funding won’t be known until the bonds are sold sometime in November, according to Amtower.

Ashenfelter noted that she typically pays between $42 and $44 for her water and sewer bill and if the sewer rate increases by 96 percent, her bill would total more than $100.

A second reading of the sewer rate increase will be held during the Nov. 13 council meeting and a third reading and public hearing will be held during the following council meeting.

Ashenfelter hopes to obtain 3,000 signatures and is required to have at least 800 to send the petition to the West Virginia Public Service Commission. She is encouraging residents to write letters to U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. David McKinley asking for more funding assistance for the new wastewater treatment plant.

Last year, Ashenfelter and resident Gerald Ickes filed a petition with the PSC opposing a water rate increase.

The sewer system serves 2,300 existing customers as well as the two resale customers.

Last year, the PSC 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.

In other news, the council approved the transfer of about 8,000 square feet of property from the West Virginia Division of Highways to the city. In anticipation of the new Keyser-McCoole Memorial Bridge, the DOH purchased and tore down the Mineral Daily News-Tribune on that property, according to Amtower.

Amtower noted the property could be used to develop a new City Hall depending on what occurs with Grand Central Business Center. Grand Central tenants have to be out of the building by Dec. 31 and Amtower has discussed the possibility of relocating City Hall and the Keyser Police Department in the building. Amtower has also suggested turning the business center into a wellness center and housing other entities there as well.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at