BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday discussed options for the installation of utility lines along Route 33 West of Buckhannon. The commission heard from several parties about the installation of sewer and water lines, including the Tennerton Public Service District and the Buckhannon Sewer Department.
Chairman for the Tennerton PSD Joe Tenney was in attendance for Tennerton PSD on behalf of the PSD’s general manager Terry Gould.
“Terry seems to think that we have a couple projects going on right now that we’re going to start – Hickory Flat [is one] – and possibly we could include funding from the government to do this project out there,” Tenney said. “He says the funding is there now, but I can’t say that.”
Senior project engineer with the Thrasher Group David Watson said Thrasher previously conducted a study of the area that extended to the county line.
“In 2010, we developed a report and submitted it to the USDA Rural Development Office, and it was about eight years ago the previous commissioners decided to let the city [install] sewer [lines in] that area,” Watson said. “Terry (Gould) called me last week and said this might be back in Tennerton’s sewer area, so we’re ahead of the game. We’ve done a report of the area. Of course, it would need amended to include another project that he is currently working on in the sewer in Red Rock and east Tennerton areas.”
Sam Ludlow, sanitary and storm sewer engineer for the City of Buckhannon, said in 2013, the Tennerton PSD requested a boundary adjustment to increase their service territory to the Red Rock and Lorentz area.
“They didn’t take action and didn’t put it back in Tennerton, which allowed Buckhannon to pursue extensions and since that time, we have employed an engineering firm to help us to prepare plans for another series of extensions – one on the north side that will go out essentially to Corridor H Tire – that is the target – and we have actively pursued that and it has been in discussion with the Sanitary Board that we would do that next summer. It has developed that far.”
He said they have also worked with the same engineering firm to design and construct a sewer line on the south side of Route 33.
“That basically requires a waterline as well as sewer line because water service further out is not available on the south side at this time, [and] Hodgesville has water service on the north side,” Ludlow said.
He said typically the city finances projects in-house, with benefiting party contributions and some federal and state money.
“We have a little bit of a different approach than Tennerton,” Ludlow said. “Tennerton is undertaking bigger projects with a considerable amount of financing and combing with loans, but I don’t know the details of the project.”
Randy Watson, project manager with the Thrasher Group, said if the engineering firm was awarded the project they would look into grants and see which ones they’d be eligible for.
“Like Dave said, we are already ahead of the game; we already have one project we are working on, but this could be added to that,” Randy Watson said. “Whether grant funding would be available for it or not depends on what rates are and what the median household income is in that area, and we could put to gather a funding package to determine what the best way to continue would be.”
Ludlow said if the Tennerton community was willing to discuss annexation, the city would be more agreeable to financing the project.
Community member Tom Shaw said he didn’t think people would be happy with annexation.
“From past experiences, you’re talking annexation and there are not too many people out that way that want to be annexed, and that’s just my opinion,” Shaw said. “I think the city and the county should be working together on this. I don’t think we should be annexed. If there is grant money out there available, I think that’s the avenue they should pursue.”
Randy Watson explained that eligibility for grant funding would be based on the median household income in the area.
“If the median household income in that area is very low, and the rates that you’re being charged for 3,400 gallons are pretty high – above one-and-a-half to two percent of your incomes and what you’re paying for sewer in a total year – then you qualify for grant dollars,” he said.” That’s if you’re going to the Infrastructure Council (West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council), which is state money. If you want to get funded through USDA, then you would you could possibly qualify for grant dollars based on what incomes are in your magisterial district.”
Randy Watson said the project they are working on for Tennerton now qualified for grant dollars through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he thinks they would qualify for this extension.
“We talked about this week ago … [about putting] an application together, getting a study done in 60 to 90 days, and we would have that done, and could come back to you and the PSD and tell you how we recommend this could be funded,” Randy Watson said. “[We could tell you] how much grant money you would qualify for and what would be the end result of funding appear to be after negotiating or after consultation with your accountant.”
Commissioner Terry Cutright asked how much a study like that would cost and Randy Watson said the study would be done on a contingency basis and would not be billed right now.
Buckhannon City Attorney Tom O’Neill suggested the people interested in this project attend the next Sanitary Board meeting Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. to see if there is a way to use the existing plans.
“I would suggest what we do is give us a 30-day period to see what grants could be applied for, how we would propose to fund it and maybe on the 19th, we attend the Sanitary Board meeting and sit down and meet with you and see the plans you have already designed and were planning to do and maybe we purchase the design from you or work with you somehow,” Randy Watson said.
Cutright made a motion to proceed with this suggestion and asked if the study would include the south side of the four-lane.
“Yeah, we will estimate what the total project cost would be and then we could have better answers on whether it qualifies for a grant or not,” Randy Watson replied. “We just didn’t want to spend too much time on it knowing if it wasn’t in Tennerton’s service area then all of our work would have been for nothing.”
Commissioner Kristie Tenney seconded Cutright’s motion. The commission decided to have Thrasher return at the Oct. 3 Upshur County Commission meeting at 1 p.m. to present their findings.