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Elkins proposes 21.5% sewer rate hike

ELKINS — Elkins city officials on Wednesday afternoon released the amount of the proposed sewer rate increase that City Council will vote on Thursday evening.

An increase of 21.5 percent in the rates for sewage and sewage disposal services will be voted on at Thursday’s Elkins City Council meeting, according to the informational packet for the meeting released Wednesday.

If passed, the rate hike will result in a $6.66 per month increase to the average residential user and a $26.86 monthly increase to the average commercial user, the information in the packet states.

Tonight’s Elkins City Council meeting is set for 7 p.m.

“The City of Elkins intends to pursue a sewer construction project… known as Phase II, which will separate combined sewers in the South Elkins area,” a letter mailed to city sewage customers this month reads. “The City Council also intends to introduce a proposed increase in its sewer rates and charges to cover the cost of the capital improvements and the debt service associated with the Phase II project.”

The letter to customers did not include the amount of the proposed rate increase.

A public hearing on the proposed project and rate increase will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 7, immediately prior to the City Council meeting in which the proposal will be voted on for the second and final time.

“The meeting will be open to the public and any interested parties may appear at the meeting and present protests, if any, with respect to the proposed ordinance,” the letter to customers reads.

The informational packet states that the project cost is estimated to be $4.3 million, to be funded through a loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The loan would be for a term of 20 years, at an interest rate of 3%.

Pingley earlier told The Inter-Mountain the project involves “water and sewer separation. The bulk of that for Phase 2 will be over in South Elkins. There are some other areas that it will reach into a bit but the majority will be in South Elkins.

“This is mandated by the consent decree that we’re under,” he said, noting the work must be finished by a certain time.

The purpose of the Sewer/Stormwater Project, as the city refers to the effort, is the segregation of the sanitary sewer from the storm sewer to meet a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consent decree in relation to Elkins’ inability to adhere to Clean Water Act regulations.

Separating the two systems will enhance the sewer facility’s capacity. During heavy rains in the past, the sewer has overflowed and spilled over into the Tygart River.

The consent decree was ordered in 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, with the state and the U.S. government as the plaintiffs and the city of Elkins as the defendant. The consent decree was the result of a negotiation between the parties involved.

Phase 1 of the project, which began in 2015, focused on Barron Avenue, Kerens Avenue, College Street and Wilson Street.

Phase 2 will affect Lavalette Avenue and Elm Street.