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City pushes back sewer increase vote

ELKINS — Elkins City Council’s second and final vote on a proposed sewer rate increase has been pushed back for two weeks, although a public hearing on the proposed increase will still take place today.

Council approved on first reading Oct. 17 a proposed 21.5% increase in the rates for sewage and sewage disposal services. The second vote was scheduled for tonight’s City Council meeting, but city officials announced by press release that the vote has been delayed.

“Due to an unfortunate oversight by one of our esteemed partners in the Phase II Sewer Project, the second reading of the sewer rate and construction ordinance (#266) will be postponed until the next regularly scheduled meeting of council, Nov. 21, 2019,” the release states.

“A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7, as advertised, and continued for an additional opportunity prior to the second reading of the ordinance on Nov. 21. Until that time, the ordinance is available for public view in the Mayor’s office or by request made to the Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton,” the release reads.

The public hearing on the proposed project and rate increase will be held at 7 p.m. tonight, immediately prior to the City Council meeting.

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.

“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,” a letter to city water customers reads.

The informational packet for Thursday’s meeting 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.