Public sewer board agrees to seek engineering advice about extension down U.S. 522

by Kate Shunney

In response to a request from a “working group” made up of select county and state elected officials, members of the Warm Springs Public Service District board have agreed to seek the advice of an engineer about extending sewer lines south along U.S. 522.

Daryl Cowles, the county’s Economic Development Authority director and West Virginia delegate, asked the public sewer board to move ahead in planning for a line extension.

Cowles said the working group was formed by Charles Trump, State Senator and local attorney, in response to a request to extend sewer lines south. Property owner Randy Waugh has repeatedly asked for sewer lines to be run further south, past Ridersville Cycle. Waugh owns multiple parcels along U.S. 522, including a mobile home park just south of the turnoff for Cold Run Valley Road.

According to discussion at the June 12 sewer board meeting, other members of the group include Commissioner Joel Tuttle, Bath mayor Scott Merki, sewer manager Scott Crunkleton and representatives from Region 9 Development and Planning.

Cowles said the first step for the sewer board in moving toward a line extension would be to meet with engineering firm Thrasher to discuss the scope of work and potential costs.

Cowles said the current county sewer plant has extra capacity to handle more customers, and there is funding available through the state to help pay for line extensions.

“I think it’s time to deploy to the south of the community and north if development takes place,” said Cowles.

Matt Pennington of Region 9 gave the sewer board a list of action items and timeline for how to proceed with planning a line extension.

Pennington said the first step is to establish the “scale and scope” of a line extension, which could include public water lines. He said there is funding available in grants and low-interest loans to pay for such a project.

Sewer board officials said three years ago they got an estimate of $6 million for running sewer lines further south for several miles.

One of the steps would be to survey residents in the possible extension area to gauge their interest in getting public water and sewer.

Sewer board chairman Mike Jenkins said it made more sense to him to survey residents first rather than plan a line extension that had limited interest.

Cowles and Pennington said engineers would have to figure out first where the line could go.

Jenkins said the sewer district’s priority right now is an inflow and infiltration (I & I) study, which detects surface and groundwater coming into the sewer system. Inflow and infiltration raises the amount of wastewater that a sewer system has to treat.

“Whether this extension project goes forward, this I & I project has to go forward,” Jenkins said. He said the sewer district may have to seek a rate increase to pay for fixes to seal up the system from inflow, and didn’t want to add further rate increases.

“We also have to face the current customers that will have to pay for an extension for economic development,” said Jenkins. He said there are individuals closer to the public sewer system that have asked for extensions into their area.

“I hate to skip over customers that are demanding service to take it to people who may or may not want it,” said Jenkins.

Commissioner Sean Forney, who also attended the meeting, owns a self-storage business just beyond Caperton Furnitureworks. He said has to decide whether to invest in a well and septic for an employee bathroom, or wait for public water and sewer that’s been promised out that direction.

“It just needs to be done. It’s something you have to do,” said Randy Waugh.

Cowles said the sewer district should work with engineers to see what’s “reasonable and achievable” and county officials will “make it happen.”

Sewer board officials said they would set a public meeting with Thrasher and members of the working group for later this month or early July.

They will also ask the Town of Bath council and Berkeley Springs Waterworks to determine if they are interested in running public water lines along with a potential sewer extension.