Cumberland Times-News

Local News

October 3, 2012

Manchin addresses residents’ concerns in Keyser

U.S. senator talks about Chesapeake Bay cleanup’s impact on industries

KEYSER, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin addressed the concerns of local leaders, small business owners and area residents during a visit to Keyser on Wednesday.

During a stop at City Hall, Manchin responded to comments about proposed changes in the Clean Water Act and its impact on Mineral County and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

The multistate effort to restore the bay, America’s largest estuary, has a tremendous impact on the poultry and agriculture industries, Manchin said.

“I have all these communities that are in this watershed saying that they don’t have the resources nor can they charge the fees that attract and borrow the money that is needed, because the people can’t afford it,” said Manchin. “It’s a burden all the way around and then they say you are in noncompliance. Communities can’t do it by themselves.”

Manchin said water and sewer bills were quite high throughout the state, especially in Fairmont, where they were “unbelievable.”

“No one minds paying their fair share to a point. That’s where government has be part of it with you. That’s what we haven’t done. So, we are working very hard on that,” he said.

The senator said he had spoken with Keyser Mayor Randy Amtower and plans to discuss the city’s water and sewer rates with him and get his opinion on whether or not they have been unfair. Manchin said he could get the Environmental Protection Agency involved if need be to help correct the issue.

Manchin also said he spoke with Randy Huffman, Cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, regarding the bay. Huffman believes that West Virginia has an unfair burden, as opposed to states like Maryland and Virginia, when it comes to the cleanup of the bay because of the state’s rural nature and because of the density of population per mile, according to Manchin.

Keyser officials recently indicated they didn’t think the West Virginia Public Service Commission’s interim sewer rate increase of  3.72 percent was sufficient enough to provide revenues necessary to allow the city to meet its going-level expenses, remain current in its bond payments and meet the required bond coverage. The city instead requested an increase of 7.54 percent. In response to the city’s suggestion to increase the rates, the PSC indicated that the original rate increase of 3.72 percent would be sufficient enough to cover the aforementioned financial needs of the city.

Manchin said he is committed to infrastructure. “When I was governor I would tell people there are two things we can do with your tax dollars, spend it or invest it. Investing is going to be infrastructure, education, science and research; things that all of us can benefit from.”

In 2007, all the U.S. governors met when they saw the economy dipping and decided that if infrastructure did well for the United States in the past then most of the effort should be put into infrastructure, said Manchin.

“We know it (infrastructure) will put a lot of people to work. It will give us value — something we could use,” said Manchin. “Wouldn’t that have been something if could have cleaned up the whole Chesapeake system and come back and upgraded the water and sewage systems that we need along the Chesapeake Bay.”

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

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