Bath council votes to move forward with water line extension along U.S. 522 despite reservations

by Trish Rudder

Town of Bath officials have put their cautious approval behind a plan to extend public water lines further south along U.S. 522 in conjunction with a sewer line extension project.

Bath Councilman Tom Hall, who heads up the town’s water committee, made a motion at the March 19 Bath Council meeting that the town and the town-owned water department, Berkeley Springs Water Works, partner with the Warm Springs Public Service District and the Morgan County Commission to move forward with the U.S. 522 water line extension project.

All but one council member voted in favor of moving forward.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner, who served on the previous council that agreed to the partnership, voted against it.

A discussion ensued before the vote on Tuesday night with Councilwoman Mary Lynn Hickey commenting that she had reservations on moving forward, but she would “reluctantly” vote in favor because she does not want to stand in the way of growth in the county. She said it was important to seek a second water source to supplement water supply for the extension.

Bath Mayor Scott Merki agreed that the water from the springs that supply the water to public utility customers has to be protected and a second water source is necessary.

Bath Mayor Scott Merki

Hall, who attended the meeting by phone, said he was concerned about price increases since the original bids were taken 24 months ago.

Councilman Greg Schene said the Morgan County Commission addressed that issue and said they thought the estimated increase would hold at 2.7% — and they had the money to take care of it.

Merki commented that he thought the commission would have a “rude awakening” when the bids go out.

Schene said the County Commission promised any overages would be taken care of by them.

“Pledges are different than signatures,” Merki said. “We need County Commission signatures on any overages.”

“We don’t want to find out we owe any money that we don’t have,” the mayor said.

Councilwoman Rebecca MacLeod said there are a lot of businesses down U.S. 522 that want the water to be available and “we want to make that available to the public.”

MacLeod said she was not a council member when the town agreed to this extension, and any future extension will be done differently.

“We all will be watching very carefully,” MacLeod said.

MacLeod said last week that she believed the Morgan County Commission plans to develop a plan to explore a secondary water source on the 16 acres the county owns next to the ball field complex south of town.

The town approved a study to expand the water lines in July of 2021. The estimated cost for the water line extension was $3.2 million. The sewer line cost was estimated at $3.2 million as well. The project in part is to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) economic stimulus bill that was passed in Congress in March 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the U.S. economy.