County seeking town’s involvement in water, sewer line extension

by Trish Rudder & Kate Shunney

Morgan County Commissioner Sean Forney will meet with the Bath Town Council at its July 27 meeting to request the town extend its public water system south along U.S. 522.

Councilman Chris Chapman said Forney met with the town’s water committee on July 12 regarding a proposed water line expansion on U.S. 522 past the Waugh Mobile Park. Chapman asked Forney to meet with the council on July 27.

County officials are looking to include the water extension in a proposed sewer line extension project further south.

Chapman said at the July 13 council meeting that the county has already received the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding and has enough money to go forward with the project and wants the Town of Bath to be a co-partner with the county application.

There would be no cost to the town for the preliminary engineering, he said.

“I made it clear we don’t want to raise rates,” Chapman said.

A secondary water plant might be available, he said.

Mayor Merki said, “I will not sign onto a project that will raise rates to its water customers.”

“We cannot be overextended to our customers,” Merki said.

Councilman Rick Weber said there must be “no increase in price and no decrease in pressure.”

Merki said the county wants this for economic development.

“They want to do it because the money is out there,” he said.

Merki said the town-owned water plant, Berkeley Springs Water Works (BSWW) has the capacity and a secondary water source is needed.

“Maybe the Morgan County Commission will pay us to build the secondary water source,” Merki said.

“We need definite assurances from the Morgan County Commission to cover the expense,” Chapman said.

Weber reiterated that property owners must hook up to any available public sewer line, but property owners are not obligated to hook up to the water line if it is available.

“We are going to be asked to make a decision,” Chapman said.

“The town has only one water source. If we lose that we lose everything,” Merki said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner suggested the town get a second opinion on the expansion. Webster said the WV Water Association and the WV Bureau of Public Health are two entities that could advise the town.

BSWW manager, Ron Jainniney said on Monday that the original estimated cost to the town to add water lines down U.S. 522 to the Waugh Mobile Park was about $3 million.

Jainniney attended a meeting in March 2019 with the Warm Springs Public Service District, the county’s sewer department, Morgan County Commission president Joel Tuttle and Randy Waugh of Waugh Mobile Park who requested extending the lines to his business.

Commissioner Forney, who is set to talk to the Bath council about the extension request, also owns a storage business along U.S. 522 in the path of the possible water and sewer line.

County Commissioners last week attended a meeting of the Warm Springs Public Service District (sewer system) board, and asked that body to consider revamping a planned sewer repair project to include a sewer line extension.

At that meeting, Forney said he would be pitching the idea of a combined water and sewer expansion to the Bath council.

He said extending the utilities down U.S. 522 would benefit economic development, including serving Caperton Furnitureworks, which is set to expand their manufacturing operations and employs a significant number of county residents.

The Warm Springs Public Service District is in the final phases of getting funding for a $4 million repair project to curb groundwater inflow and infiltration into their system.

That ground and surface water issue has led to the sewer treatment plant operating over its capacity during heavy rain events. Engineers have identified areas where old sewer lines and manholes can be upgraded to correct the problem.

Commissioners asked the sewer board to consider scaling back their repair project and adding a line extension component to the project. They said federal money for infrastructure projects is available now, and would be a better match for a sewer line extension that could serve businesses and take small sewage package plants offline.

Sewer officials are expected to get a final decision on funding for their inflow & infiltration project funding in the next month or two.