Cumberland Times-News

October 17, 2013

Development authority receives suit settlement funds

Central Hampshire Public Service District asks for $50,000 loan

MARLA PISCIOTTA
Cumberland Times-News

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — Settlement checks from the Wellness Center civil suit are trickling in to the Hampshire County Development Authority and a long-vacant building may have a tenant before the end of this year.

A hearing was held before Judge Charlie Parsons at the Judicial Building on Thursday.

The amount of expenditures, accounts receivable listed on the authority balance sheet regarding the Wellness Center, total $1,467,056.31, which includes legal fees.

Although the settlement amount was not made public, authority officials said the settlement did not cover the costs incurred.

The issues with the Wellness Center began in June 2011 when the facility had to be closed for nearly eight weeks due to engineering and construction issues. The authority authorized litigation against RK&K engineers and construction managers to recover the cost of repairs needed to correct the issues.

In other business, Richard Wood, chairman of the Central Hampshire Public Service District, asked the authority for a $50,000 loan during Wednesday’s meeting.

Wood, board member Joe Pancione, and general manager James Hoffman spoke to the authority board members.

“We need $50,000 to upgrade Little Cacapon to make it more efficient,” Wood said.

Referred to as Little Cacapon, the official name for Central Hampshire’s main sewer treatment plant is the Frenchburg Wastewater Treatment Plant. It is located off Little Cacapon Road in Augusta.

The plant is permitted for treating 200,000 gallons of wastewater a day.

Wood said they want to upgrade the plant to 300,000 gallons a day and eliminate the Harvest Hills plant in Sunrise Summit.

Wood also said that engineers Gwen Dobson and Foreman of Altoona, Pa., would be factoring in complying with the state Chesapeake Bay rules and regulations.  

Hoffman said it is important to plan ahead, particularly due to the rapid growth in the center of the county.

The plant had a moratorium on it when Harvest Hills, a smaller plant, was put in operation. At the time, plans were being made for the construction of Hampshire Memorial Hospital and the plant was needed to serve the hospital and the high school.  

Since that time, the interconnector was constructed and the Harvest Hills plant is no longer needed.

Central Hampshire is in the process of putting in a pump station at Harvest Hills that will pump sewage to Frenchburg.

“We won’t eliminate the use of the interconnector. Pumping to Frenchburg will save the district around $60,000 a year in operations and maintenance costs,” Hoffman said.

Wood said the $50,000 would pay for design bills that have already been incurred.

Jason Hicks, president of the authority, said, “We need to get our books straight before money goes out.”

Hicks said once all the money is received from the wellness settlement the authority will have to restore funds to designated accounts.

After the meeting, treasurer Dave Mayfield said that each account would have to be scrutinized, and only a percentage may go back in to some accounts.  

The authority tabled a decision on the $50,000 until the November meeting.

After going into executive session, the board reaffirmed that the executive committee has the authority to negotiate a lease on the former Mill Branch building in the Capon Bridge Tech Park.

The full board would have to ratify the committee’s decision.

The 30,000-square-foot building has been vacant since 2010. In the five years prior to moving, Mill Branch paid the authority $396,000. In addition to the loss of monthly income, the authority has had to pay nearly $1,500 a month for maintaining infrastructure.

In other business, authority executive director Les Shoemaker said he had spoken with Region 8 Planning and Development Council regarding applying for an Appalachian Regional Commission grant to pay for a feasibility study on a meat processing plant in the county.

Board member Bob Cheves said state Department of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick brought up the idea during a meeting in August.

“We don’t have a good distribution system. I think we can be competitive because the current markup is so high,” Cheves said. “There is a lot of opportunity there.”

Cheves said Helmick expressed concern for not using West Virginia products to feed schools and the prison system.

The commissioners met again with Shoemaker to discuss the feasibility of a processing plant.