City, J.F. Allen reach agreement ‘in principle’ on construction of utilities on south side of Route 33 West

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Mayor David McCauley, at right, at city recorder Randy Sanders Thursday at a special joint meeting of the city's Water and Sanitary Sewer Boards.

BUCKHANNON – Two utility boards have given the green light to an agreement between the City of Buckhannon and a local developer that will result in the construction of water and sanitary sewer utility lines on the south side of U.S. Route 33 West.

The city’s Sanitary Sewer Board and Water Board met jointly in special session Thursday to consider a memorandum of understanding between the city and J.F. Allen Company that laid out the terms governing the building of the utility lines, which will be undertaken by J.F. Allen.

Although J.F. Allen Company had not yet signed the MOU as of 4 p.m., Mayor David McCauley said the company had “in principle” accepted the terms of the MOU, which was drafted after several rounds of negotiations between the parties.

According to city public works director Jerry Arnold, the MOU says J.F. Allen will build the sanitary sewer and water utility lines on Route 33 West’s south side over a one-year period, after which time, the city will assume ownership and responsibility of maintaining the lines. In addition, the Sanitary Board and Water Board will each provide $100,000 for a total of $200,000 “for the purpose of approved, collaboratively acquired materials.”

“We are obligated to provide monetary help to achieve main line extension, whether it is on a payback module or whether we come up with this sort of deal up front,” Arnold said. “My understanding, as of three o’clock this afternoon, was that [J.F. Allen President] Greg Hadjis agreed with the proposal. They had a board meeting, but the board meeting wasn’t complete yet, so we don’t know the final outcome from the owners, but it is believed that they would look favorably on the MOU, and we should have a signed copy very shortly, and they are planning on attending next week’s Sanitary Board meeting.”

In addition to the $200,000 materials cost, the city will provide $76,463.06 in engineering design services; in-kind labor; and inspection and administrative costs, Arnold said. J.F. Allen will provide a one-year warranty of all materials and workmanship and sufficient rights-of-way to the city, enabling municipal officials to maintain the utility lines.

If effected, the MOU says J.F. Allen and other contributing developers will notify the Upshur County Commission in writing of the agreement between itself and the city.

McCauley said the company expects to begin construction on the lines – which will extend service to the top of the Buckhannon Mountain area – in March 2020.

He noted the purpose of Thursday’s special meeting was to seek approval from both boards of the MOU that will go into effect, pending J.F. Allen’s approval.

“We understand that the city’s … proposal has now in principle been accepted by J.F. Allen,” McCauley said. “We are awaiting their formal execution of a memorandum of understanding prepared by city officials, allowing us to move the utilities project forward.”

City attorney Tom O’Neill said the agreement fell within West Virginia Public Service Commission parameters, and city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said agreement was a positive one from a financial standpoint.

“This is a positive investment by the Water and Sanitary Boards both for this promising commercial development area, and I think this is an investment for the future,” Jenkins said.

Sanitary Sewer Board member Gene Frye made a motion to proceed with the project upon both parties signing the MOU, which was seconded by McCauley, a Sanitary Board member, before passing. Water Board member and City Councilman David Thomas similarly made a motion to proceed upon signing of the MOU, which Councilman Robbie Skinner, a Water Board member, seconded. That motion also passed.

McCauley emphasized Thursday’s special meeting and the MOU at the heart of it only pertained to the south side of Route 33 West.

“Today’s discussion concerns only the south side utilities along 33 West, although I hasten to add that we believe we are also very close to resolution of sewer service on the north side of 33 West that similarly would permit us to commence that project in March of 2020 as well,” he said.

According to a spreadsheet of the city’s proposal contributions to the project, engineering, design and observation fees total $263,298.15 and project administration fees during construction add up 5 percent, or $13,164.91, for a total of $276,463.06.