Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 10, 2013

Keyser council to vote on sewer rate hike

Revenue will help pay for treatment plant

KEYSER, W.Va. — A third reading and a vote on a proposed sewer rate ordinance that would increase the rate by 96.5 percent will be held at the Wednesday Keyser Council meeting.

At a November public hearing, residents voiced concerns about how those on a limited income will not be able to afford the rate increase. Councilman Terry Liller then agreed to form a work group to look into the possibility of offering some type of supplement for the cost of operating the water and sewer plant.

The average annual income base for residents is $33,000, according to Karol Ashenfelter, spokeswoman for Keyser Citizens for Fiscal Accountability. Ashenfelter circulated a petition opposing the rate increase.

The rate could be lower because the city is still waiting for the state to bond out the lottery money from Senate Bill 245, according to Mayor Randy Amtower. The bill addresses restoration of the Chesapeake Bay by increasing the amount of excess lottery revenue deposited to an infrastructure fund. Due to a deadline for the sewer plant, the city is going ahead with the proposed ordinance using conservative numbers in hopes that the bonds are high or additional revenue is gained, said Amtower.

“The rate ordinance reflects the middle of the road on Senate Bill 245 and if it comes in higher we hope to reduce the rate,” said Amtower.

The bill could potentially yield $11.3 million, but the total amount of funding won’t be known until bonds are sold.

During the hearing, Susan Riggs, counsel for the city, indicated that the rate ordinance will not go into effect until a substantial completion of the sewer project takes place in about two years.

The purpose of the ordinance is to support a new $26.2 million sewer treatment plant, which 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.

Also during the council meeting, Dunn Engineering Inc. of Charleston will provide an update on the progress of the new sewer plant. Dunn will also provide an update on Phase I and II water projects, which include a rebuild of the water plant as well as the Chestnut Street line replacement and a water tank refurbishment, according to Amtower. Dunn was set to provide the update during the water board meeting but it was canceled due to inclement weather.  

Other items listed on the agenda for the meeting include approval of a resolution for Phase II of the water project, approval of a resolution for a sewer design loan, a discussion of residental parking on Fort Avenue and a wage adjustment for elected officials.

The meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall.

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

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