BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon Water Board hopes to organize a water summit with Upshur County public service districts in April.
At the Feb. 13 city Water Board meeting, mayor David McCauley said the board had been considering organizing the summit since fall. He announced it during his January 2020 ‘State of the City’ address.
“We were having issues with a couple of the Public Service Districts, especially with so much of our potable water just being dumped into the ground [due to leaks],” McCauley said. “We also went through the hoops with the exercise that we engaged in with the [proposed] sewer [installation project] with the county, and it was just another reminder that with these public service districts that are struggling, we really are all in it together.”
He said it would make sense to bring the PSDs together to discuss issues any of the entities want to bring to the table.
“In this case, we have four water-providing public service districts and, in an hour, or an hour-and-a-half, we share information, talk about plans to upgrade lines, to minimize water loss, and how important it is to minimize that water loss,” McCauley said. “Maybe with the five of us together, we can have a little more lobbying impact to get with our state and federal representatives to try to secure funding to help reduce water loss.”
He said at their previous meeting, the board discussed having the summit in March but since it was the middle of February, it would be better to set the date for April.
Kelly Arnold, head of the Buckhannon Water Department, said he spoke Bertis McCarty with the West Virginia Rural Water Association because they already organize regional meetings.
“They invite different PSDs, the different plants and what they don’t really take minutes or anything, but it’s just like a round table where they discuss the different kinds of things that each one of them is having issues with,” Arnold said. “They even find out if there’s different equipment that they’d be happy to rent or that they could have like a mutual agreement with each other to travel and do something like that.”
McCauley asked Arnold if McCarty would be willing to take part in their first water summit.
“That’s why I was bringing it up to you guys,” Arnold said. “There is common ground because as far as I know, this county and the surrounding counties are members of this same group, the Rural Water Association.”
McCauley asked Arnold to look into McCarty’s availability in April and see if he would be interested in attending the summit.
City finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said she hopes with summit will allow the city to help support the PSDs.
“I’ve heard from more than one PSD, that it’s a struggle to get a rate increases approved,” Jenkins said. “Apparently, the Public Service Commission doesn’t really allow them to do a rate increase for upkeep of their infrastructure. They’ll let them get loans for extensions, but not upkeep of their infrastructure. I like the idea of facilitating and supporting them and trying to find them ways to get funding for keeping up infrastructure.”
McCauley said they would develop an agenda for the potential summit and they aim to have a firm date by the March Water Board meeting, set for 4 p.m. March 12 in council chambers.