Snowshoe skipper frustrated by PSDﾒs continued demands
The biggest news from last week's county commission meeting wasn't the information from Pocahontas Public Service District board member David Litsey about the decentralized plan for a wastewater treatment plant near Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
And it wasn't the fact that long-time PSD foe Russell Holt was opposed to the plan.
For the first time, the resort's chief operations officer publicly vented his frustration at the moving target of a plan.
Frank DeBerry said he couldn't fathom the reason his every effort to cooperate had been met with more and more conditions for the resort to comply with. DeBerry said he was almost embarrassed to complain when he has been at Snowshoe for only a year and others have been battling over the plant for more than a decade.
"My intent all along has been to work with this community," DeBerry said. "I've been as cooperative as I can possibly be because I want to come to a resolution. Every step I've taken has been met with two steps backward."
DeBerry said he thought a solution had been reached in March-a bigger solution because it was a decentralized plan-and that he was willing to support that or a centralized plan.
"I've heard forty different prices," he continued. "Prices have gone all over the place."
Prices for the plan have ranged from $13 million at the beginning of the wastewater saga, which rose to $17 million when the project was delayed because of community sentiment and then to around $23 million. The cost now stands at somewhere at just under $20 million.
DeBerry also noted that the current plan has the same average daily flow as the pummeled Thrasher plan which was thrown out when Litsey and current PSD president Tom Shipley were appointed to the board.
The Thrasher plan called for a regional centralized plant near Slaty Fork. The first location, on Shipley's family farm, met with local opposition because issues of eminent domain arose. No other location met with PSD approval until Snowshoe offered property where resort officials planned to put a resort-only facility.
DeBerry said a centralized plant allows ability to grow and gives flexibility for growth. The resort COO said he also believed it is the plan that will stop the fighting, because it is the cheaper option.
While he said he seems to be in constant communication with PSD members about trivial matters such as what trees should be planted on the plant's campus, his absence at one meeting caused PSD members to once again, move the target.
"I come back and find out anything I had done, every effort I've put in has been obliterated," DeBerry said. "I don't know what argument I'm trying to fight because every time I have a discussion there's always something new."
The offer he'd made for resort property was questioned at that meeting, but DeBerry said no one called to ask him if he stood behind his word. He said he did not understand the PSD board members' motives unless it was a plan for organized development versus stopping organized development.
"It may be impossible to reach a compromise," he said. "It's hard for me to imagine anything other than obstructionism. It's almost like no one really wanted my cooperation to begin with."
PSD board member Amon Tracey, who has opposed the decentralized plan, said two plants will be more expensive in terms of operations and management.
"Year after year look at the money it would save," Tracey said.
He said the plant should be at Slaty Fork, but doubted that it would be.
That opinion was shared by former PSD board member Kermit Friel, a resident of Slaty Fork. Friel said he had worked on the sewage treatment problem more than everyone in the room combined.
"Still the cheapest, fastest place [to build], is Slaty Fork," Friel said. He said the state-owned land known as "the boardinghouse" property was ideal for the plant.
Friel accused current county commissioners of being an anti-growth group that would rather spend money fighting projects.
"People should be irate," Friel said. "I certainly am."
He said Snowshoe should pull its offer for land. Friel said Litsey's numbers were incorrect and accused the man of other motives than building a sewage treatment plant.
"I don't think you have the right to stop a project because of politics," he said.
Litsey maintained that the decentralized option is cheapest because of sheer numbers.
He said vacation homes do not operate every day of every year, thus, pumps will, at times be idle.
"If people show up, then there are people to pay for it," he said.
For their part, commissioners once again stood behind Litsey and Shipley's plans, reminiscent of the days when former commissioners Joel Callison and Reta Griffith stood behind former PSD members Mark Smith and Bill Rexrode who supported the original Thrasher plan.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕauthorized a special account for donations to the animal shelter.
ﾕappointed Jim Burks to the Solid Waste Authority.
ﾕfound out that all asbestos has been removed from East Fork Industrial Park and the cell where sludge from Howes Leather is entombed is 80 percent capped.
ﾕsigned contracts with Elaine Diller and Alisha Tallman at the One Room Unversity.
The commission will meet again in regular session July 17 at 5 p.m.
Pamela Pritt can be reached at email@example.com