KEYSER, W.Va. — Keyser council members on Wednesday voted to approve an ordinance that would increase the sewer rate by 96.5 percent. Councilman Herman Judy voted against the hike.
The rate increase would almost triple what Keyser residents have to pay compared to resale customers in McCoole and New Creek, according to Keyser resident Gerald Ickes.
“It’s really tremendously unfair to the city,” he said.
A petition in opposition to the rate increase circulated by Karol Ashenfelter, spokeswoman for Keyser Citizens for Fiscal Accountability, has garnered 2,000 signatures. The petition will be sent to the West Virginia Public Service Commission on Thursday.
The rate increase is needed to support a new $26.2 million sewer treatment plant and won’t go into effect until a substantial completion of the sewer project takes place in about two years, according to city officials. A new sewer plant is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration mandates for limits on nitrogen and phosphorus.
The EPA has a regulation that if an area is depressed it could be eliminated from the regulations, according to Ashenfelter, who spoke with an EPA official about theregulation.
“In other words, we wouldn’t have to put in a new sewer plant,” said Ashenfelter.
The EPA official told Ashenfelter that the rate increase should be 1 percent to 2 percent and agreed to look into the matter, but hasn’t gotten back to her yet.
Plans for the new sewer plant are currently under review by the Department of Environmental Protection and comments on the plan and specifications will be returned in January, according to Fred Hypes, vice president of Dunn Engineering Inc. of Charleston. Also, a request was made to the Infrastructure Development and Jobs Development Council for a formal commitment of funds from the SB 245 grant (lottery) funds and has been made to the DEP for the binding commitment for their state revolving funds. Both of those requests for funding are expected to be made and approved in January, said Hypes.
“That is all the money that is necessary to bill the wastewater treatment plant upgrade project,” said Hypes.
Mayor Randy Amtower indicated in a previous interview that the money from the bill could come in higher than expected and lower the rate increase percentage.
Elaine Blaisdell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.