PSD sends Thrasher review of Rigby plan to DEP
Supporters of David Rigby's alternative sewage system design for the Snowshoe area were outraged when the Pocahontas County Public Service District (PSD) hastily convened a special meeting on July 15 and submitted Thrasher Engineering's evaluation of Rigby's plan to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Rigby plan supporters wanted a third-party evaluation of the alternative, but the PSD board decided that hiring a third party would conflict with their contract with Thrasher. The board voted on May 14 to have Thrasher review and prepare a cost estimate for the Rigby plan.
Thrasher project engineer Jonathan Carpenter presented his review to the PSD board on June 29, when he told the board that Thrasher's design was the most cost-effective option.
Carpenter estimated the cost of the Rigby plan at nearly $27 million. Rigby, president of Waste Water Management, Inc., and wastewater engineer for more than 40 years, had estimated the cost of his plan at $14 million. Thrasher estimates its proposed Snowshoe Drive plant will cost $25.5 million.
During the July 15 meeting, the board voted 2-1 to submit Thrasher's review of Rigby's plan to the DEP, despite the greatly divergent cost estimates and before receiving a response from Rigby.
Board secretary Amon Tracey assumed control of the meeting and gave members of the public five minutes to voice their opinions before the board took its vote. Staring at a wall clock on the table before him, Tracey made sure nobody went over the time limit.
Referring to past PSD meetings where he and Tracey were public attendees, Shipley expressed dismay at the manner in which the meeting was conducted.
"With respect to what you're doing - this is very reminiscent of a stopwatch that another board member used and we didn't feel too good about it," he said. "I'm against a time limit."
"I realize why he did it, now," Tracey responded.
Tracey, with the apparent concurrence of board president Mark Smith, disallowed questions to the board during the comment period.
Supporters of Thrasher's design and supporters of Rigby's design both had the opportunity to speak.
Many Snowshoe-area property owners said Thrasher's proposed plant is too big, too costly and a danger to the environment. They said Rigby's design is sized correctly, will cost millions less and poses less danger to the environment.
Snowshoe resident Donelle Oxley said there was no way Thrasher gave their competitor's plan a fair review, when the Charleston firm wanted the business for themselves. Oxley claimed Thrasher had filed a complaint against Rigby.
"I'm not quite sure why Jonathan's father [Thrasher engineer Dayton Carpenter filed a grievance against David Rigby and his company, trying to defame him in some way by saying he violated this and violated that," she said.
Carpenter presented a summary of his report at a public meeting on June 29, but his written report has been kept secret, over strenuous objections from the press and public.
Bob Forrest, of Snowshoe, said he had detected two serious errors by listening to Carpenter's verbal report and probably would find more if Carpenter's report was made public.
"First of all, I request that Thrasher's report be disseminated with all supporting financial information - not just summary figures but how they came up with those numbers so that others can take a look at it," he said.ﾠ "It seems to me, if there is a plan that is significantly lower in cost than the one that's on the table right now, it should be given more than just lip service."
Tolly Peleuche, who lives on the Elk River, said Thrasher's proposed sewage line from Snowshoe to Linwood would result in disaster.ﾠ
"The thing that worries people downstream from this - I believe it's not 'if' but 'when' that line going down that steep slope is going to break and it gets into the water table," she said. "Clean water cannot be replaced."
Supporters of Thrasher's design argued that funding is in place to build the plant and that the time for good ideas is long past. They pointed out that the PSD's existing plants continue to pollute the Elk River watershed and something needs to be done. A new design, they contended, would set the project back by at least two years. Further delays, they claimed, could result in fines from the DEP.
Linwood-area resident Russell Holt questioned the motives of opponents of Thrasher's plant.
"The [Rigby] plan is just another false ploy, after seven years, three months and 21 days of delays, that have allowed the environmental pollution at the existing plants - that everybody's so worried about - to continue unabated, by a continually changing group of so-called environmentalists, who in effect, just don't want growth at Snowshoe and are attempting to stop it," Holt said.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort Chief Operations Officer Bill Rock urged the board to "move forward."
"I encourage the board to act and move forward," he said. "The way to solve this problem is to get something built. It would be foolhardy to say we're rushing through anything after seven years."
After the public comment period, Shipey moved that the board wait until it had received a response from Rigby before submitting Carpenter's report to the DEP, which died for lack of a second.
Shipley strenuously objected and said sending Carpenter's one-sided report to DEP would be "an outrage."
Tracey moved to send Carpenter's report to the DEP and Smith seconded. Shipley continued to discussﾠ reasons against the measure and Tracey said, "call the question." Smith called for a vote and the board voted 2-1 to submit Carpenter's report to the PSD. Shipley voted nay.
After Shipley protested, Tracey moved that the meeting be adjourned and Smith seconded, which they immediately approved with a vote.
After the meeting concluded, Shipley hosted a briefing by David Litsey, who discussed the Rigby plan with interested members of the public. Litsey said he is considering a lawsuit to stop construction of Thrasher's Snowshoe Drive plant.
The next PSD meeting is scheduled for July 27, 7 p.m. at the Durbin waterworks building.