by Kate Shunney
A planned extension of public water and sewer lines along U.S. 522 south of Ridersville Cycle will go ahead with an announcement that the U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded $3.2 million for the project.
The department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) said the funds are specifically meant to support communities “economically impacted by the declining use of coal and the coronavirus pandemic.”
Warm Springs Public Service District, which manages the county’s public sewer systems in Berkeley Springs and Great Cacapon, is the recipient of the $3.2 million grant for “water and sewer system upgrades to support business growth and job creation.”
Engineers have said an extension project for both water and sewer utilities will cost roughly $6.2 million.
In August, Morgan County Commissioners committed $200,000 as the county’s match for potential state and federal funding as they applied for a second round of federal EDA money.
County officials said they have received a commitment from the West Virginia Development Office for $2.5 million, in addition to the $3.2 million granted by the federal EDA.
The project in question would extend public water and sewer lines along U.S. 522 from their current locations south to the Tabor Road area.
New water lines from the Berkeley Springs Water Works and new sewer lines from the Warm Springs Public Service District could serve several businesses located south of Ridersville Cycle, where the current lines stop. Those businesses include Caperton Furnitureworks, which is currently expanding; the bowling alley; Mountaineer Materials Handling; Dawson’s Hardware and associated tenants; the Morgan County ballfield and soccer complexes, along with residential customers.
Officials from both the Berkeley Springs Waterworks and the Warm Springs Public Service District stipulated to the county that they would only agree to consider the utility line extensions if their existing customers didn’t have to foot the bill through higher rates.
Commission President Sean Forney returned to that issue on Friday.
“It is also important to note that this will result in no rate increase to the current users to assist in paying for the expansion,” he said in an email.
Forney, who has been at the forefront of pitching the idea of the utility extension to both the water and sewer utilities, has credited Commissioner Bill Clark for his connections at the state and federal levels and being able to tap those for Morgan County’s benefit.
“This has been a very long but rewarding process,” said Forney. “The County Commission, Region 9, WPSD, and Water Department worked very hard to make this happen. The process started just over two years ago with the initial phone calls being made to the stake holders to seek permission to move forward.”
Both West Virginia senators remarked in the federal EDA grant announcement that the funds will support economic development in Morgan County, boosting job creation and supporting growth, including in the tourism sector.
Sewer officials have said they have the capacity at their wastewater treatment plant to add new customers along U.S. 522. Berkeley Springs council members told the county that they would consider extending water lines further south as long as the public water supply holds out and current customers don’t experience a loss in pressure or flow.