PSD hires new attorney
The Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board hired a new attorney at its regular meeting on August 31, at a time when legal troubles mount for the three-man board.
Attorney Tom Michael handled years of administrative chores for the PSD, including the transfer of Snowshoe Water and Sewer, Inc.'s assets to the government and preliminary approval of a plan for a Snowshoe-area sewage plant. But, with a courtroom battle looming on the horizon, the attorney quit.
Soon after Michael's departure, Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and five Slaty Fork-Snowshoe area landowners filed a Public Service Commission (PSC) complaint against the PSD, asking for an order to complete the regional sewage project and requesting that the project be put into receivership. Less than two weeks later, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed suit in Pocahontas County Circuit Court, seeking injunctions against water discharge violations at the PSD's three sewage plants and fines as much as $25,000 per day for "ongoing and future violations."
The board interviewed two firms in executive session: Shuman, McCluskey and Slicer, PLLC, of Charleston and Morgantown; and Pyles and Turner, LLP, of Lewisburg. Charleston attorney James V. Kelsh withdrew his name from consideration because of a potential conflict of interest.
Shuman, McCluskey and Slicer came away with the job thanks to a 2-1 vote by the PSD board. Board member Amon Tracey voted against the firm because he wanted attorney William Slicer, specifically, to work for the PSD, which the firm would not guarantee.
The board approved a project to improve drainage around the three million gallon equalization tank at the Snowshoe Village wastewater plant. Standing water collects behind the foundation of the tank, which could eventually cause a failure. The drainage project will be advertised for bids in The Pocahontas Times.
The board unanimously approved the sale of approximately 350 feet of surplus 15-inch plastic sewer pipe, which a contractor offered to buy for use as culverts. Sewer operations manager Lloyd Coleman said the pipe is probably no longer serviceable for sewer use. The PSD will retain about 100 feet of the pipe for its own use.
The board approved the purchase of an $18,000 flow control vault for the equalization tank from Americast, a concrete product company. The company's bid was the lowest bid received and significantly lower than two other bids. The vault utilizes a flow meter and pinch valve to control discharge flow from the tank, which PSD employees currently do manually.
During a public comment period, Donelle Oxley, Nora Orndorf and Bill Liebman spoke in favor of an alternative sewage system designed by David Rigby. Russell Holt spoke in favor of Thrasher Engineering's sewage design, which is under review at the DEP.
The PSD board tabled several items, for which it will need legal advice to make decisions, including:
- execution of a letter of understanding with Region IV, Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council for administration of funds for the Durbin water upgrade project;
- execution of a commercial meter readings charge agreement;
- a cost-of-living pay adjustment for PSD employees;
- action on a contract for a roof on the Snowshoe Village equalization tank;
- a letter of intent from Utility Holdings, LLC, to purchase the PSD sewage plants at Snowshoe Village and Silver Creek for rebuilding and upgrades.
In other business, the PSD board:
- paid invoices from Region IV, IJDC to be paid as follows: $7,318.98 to the IJDC for administrative services; $3,461.88 to Thrasher Engineering and $3,857 to attorney Tom Michael as final payment.
- tabled action on leasing office space or the purchase of an office trailer until Coleman provided more information.
- approved financial statements for August, which indicated $72,478.93 in income and $51,166.69 in expenditures under the sewer account and $15,375.31 in income and $8,596.09 in expenditures under the water account.
The next regular PSD meeting is scheduled for September 28, 7 p.m. at the Durbin water works building.