MAN, W.Va. — The Town of Man owes the Buffalo Creek Public Service Commission $40,000 for rainwater that has gotten into the sewage treatment lines and is looking into passing a temporary surcharge of $2.02 per thousand gallons of water in order to raise the needed money to pay them.
That was the big topic of discussion Monday night at the July 11 Man Town Council meeting.
“We need to pay this,” said Town Accountant Jeff Vallet.
Vallet said the temporary surcharge of $2.02 per one thousand gallons would not affect most customers, but it would possibly be enough to pay what the town owed the PSC.
He explained that the problem was an old one and had been caused each spring when large amounts of rainwater made their way into the sewage collection lines of the Buffalo Creek PSC. Mayor Jim Blevins noted that the problem of private residences which had downspouts leading into those same lines had been addressed a few years ago by making residents remove them, but that annual rains were still costing the town major amounts of money each year for wastewater treatment.
“We have to catch this bill up,” Vallet said, noting that if the town did nothing about it, the PSC might take over the wastewater treatment service from the town.
“The surcharge is based on total gallons used,” Vallet said.
Longtime councilman John Fekete said he was concerned about the elderly and others who are on fixed incomes getting an outrageous increase in their fees for sewage.
Mavis Toler said that based on her minimum bill it looked like her increase would be around $1 or so per month.
“So it is not going to be more than $2 to $6 bucks for most residential users?” Fekete asked.
Vallet said that was the current plan.
“If we do nothing we will be taken over and we will lose control of the service,” Vallet explained. “We need to get this resolved with the PSC as soon as we can. …They charge us a $10 percent penalty each month on the amount which is not paid up and it is adding up.”
Vallet said two other nearby towns will be facing a similar situation within the next month. He noted that even though the proposed surcharge was a temporary measure that eventually, somewhere down the road, there would have to be another rate increase. “This should take care of us until the next year,” Vallet said.
“All of this is because we got hit with a lot of rainwater,” he said, noting that in the future the town will need to come up with a solution to resolve the problem, which might include having to install new wastewater collection lines.
Mayor Blevins noted the town has had to pay thousands a year because of rainwater getting into the wastewater treatment collection lines and is billed for that by the Buffalo Creek Public Service Commission.
Vallet said that a low interest loan could pay off what the town owes the PSC.
“We really don’t have any other choice,” he added. “Ultimately we have a big problem with rainwater infiltration and most of it is in the North Man area. We will have to put in new lines.”
Vallet said that project will require the service of engineers to design it and the Region II Development Authority to assist the town in putting it together. When Fekete asked if there would be grant money available for such a project Vallet said he had not seen any grants for that type of a project and that the town would probably have to borrow money to install new lines. He noted the old Terra Cotta lines in the region were damaged and another part of the problem.
Vallet said the town knew of six companies that could do such work and he recommended narrowing that number down to three and having the top contenders bid on the project.
“We want to do this for the least amount of money possible, but there is a process you have to go through,” he said.
Mayor Blevins said a committee would be put together to come up with three contenders by next week.
Fekete said it was important that the town not come up with a grandiose proposal that it could not afford to do, such as a different recent water problem.
“We do not want to do that again,” he said. Fekete noted that years ago the town was hurt in the grant application process because there were many residents who had higher incomes. He noted with the dramatic downturn in the coal industry and the local economy that residents of the town no longer had that kind of money.
“The money is no longer here that used to be,” he emphasized and asked Vallet if those statistics could possibly be revised to help the town with funding.
J.D. Charles is a freelance writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner.