Town opposes sewer bills for vacant buildings
The Town of Bath Council voted to file a formal complaint with the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) opposing the Warm Springs Public Service District’s recent decision to start charging for sewer service regardless of occupancy.
The vote came during a special council meeting held Friday morning, June 22, and of those council members present, the vote was unanimous.
Attending the meeting, presided over by Mayor Susan Webster, were Councilmen Andy Swaim and Ken Easton and Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner. The three constituted a quorum.
“When we learned about this, I think we were all taken aback by the unfairness of this, particularly at a time when the reason there are vacant homes or businesses or structures is people simply don’t have the funds to pay for them,” Webster said.
The policy passed by the District’s board will begin billing owners of vacant properties connected to the sewer system the minimum charge if connected to a metered water system and a flat rate charge if not connected to a metered water system.
Factoring in the recent
rate increase granted the District by the PSC, the minimum monthly bill based on 3,000 gallons will be $39.54 and the flat rate charge based on 4,500 gallons will be $58.05.
The above figures were provided by District Manager Rodney Hovermale.
According to Hovermale, owners of vacant properties connected to the sewer system that have metered water will be billed even if the water to the property is shut off by the water works.
Chief Water Operator Terry Largent, who was present at the meeting, pointed out, “If you’ve got telephone and electric running past your house, you don’t pay their service just because it runs past your house.”
Skinner agreed. “It is inappropriate to charge people for services they are not using.”
After reviewing state code, the council was unclear whether or not the Public Service District legally had the right to impose the policy.
Webster said, in the case that they do, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.”
She said the complaint will open a case with the PSC and prevent the District from implementing the policy until there is a ruling.
“I would encourage any citizen out there who also has a problem with the policy to do this,” she said about filing a complaint.
After the vote, Town Clerk Debra Peck faxed the complaint to the PSC.
The complaint echoed the thoughts of the council stating in part, “The Town of Bath Council is opposed to this policy as it is inappropriate to charge citizens, business and property owners for services not rendered.”
In response to the complaint, the PSC on Friday, June 22 opened case number 12-0854-PSC-C, Town of Bath v. Warm Springs Public Service District.
The PSC ordered the District to satisfy or answer the formal complaint in writing within 10 days of receiving the complaint. The order also stated the PSC would continue to investigate the complaint.
The council passed a resolution in support of the Home Consortium that provides help with down payments, closing costs or security deposits for qualified first time homeowners or renters.
The vote was 2-1 with Skinner opposed. She said she was generally opposed to the program on principle.
“If I want to help you make a down payment on a house that is my choice. I don’t think I should be forced to help you make a down payment on your house,” She said about the federally funded program.