PSD plans legal strategy with new attorney
The Pocahontas County Public Service District (PSD) board went into closed-door session with its new attorney Monday evening to plan a response to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The attorney, Chris Negley, with the Charleston-Morgantown firm McCluskey, Shuman and Slicer, came on board this month. Longtime board attorney Tom Michael resigned in July, just prior to the filing of two legal actions against the PSD.
Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and five Snowshoe-area landowners filed an action at the Public Service Commission (PSC) on August 16, requesting a PSC order that the PSD complete a regional sewage project and the appointment of a receiver to take over the project.
The DEP filed suit on August 30 in Pocahontas County Circuit Court, seeking an injunction of water discharge violations and fines up to $25,000 per day for "ongoing and future violations."
The PSD went into executive session for an hour at a special meeting Monday evening. At the conclusion of the session, in accordance with state law, board member Tom Shipley stated that no actions had been taken during the secret session.ﾠ
The executive session is authorized by state law, which allows public bodies to have confidential discussions with their attorneys, when discussing matters that fall under attorney-client privilege.
Negley is a 1992 graduate of West Virginia University College of Law and started with McCluskey in 2005, after several years working for the DEP and the State Attorney General's office.
Proceeding to other items, the board discussed a planned project to build a roof on the three-million gallon equalization tank at the Snowshoe Village wastewater treatment plant. The tank holds sewage from Snowshoe Village and allows a consistent flow rate into the treatment plant.
The roof is intended to reduce heat loss from the sewage, thereby increasing the efficiency of the biological treatment process.
The project is expected to cost more than $600,000 and require a certificate of necessity from the PSC.
Jeff Ellrich and Jim Wary from Mid-Atlantic Storage Systems, Inc., presented a cost estimate to the board. Mid-Atlantic is the exclusive regional dealer for Atlantic Storage Systems, Inc., the manufacturer of the tank.
The representatives said it would cost $618,600 to build the roof with a 40-pound snow load specification. The pair recommended doing business with Mid-Atlantic, due to its expertise with the tank.
Negley told the board a no-bid contract was possible, but "tricky."
The representatives mentioned the possibility of soliciting bids, specifically for their brand of roof, which would result in only one qualified vendor. Wastewater manager Lloyd Coleman said this type of bid had been done before to obtain lift station pumps of a desired brand.
The board tabled the item until Negley can review the PSD's contract with Thrasher Engineering and determine if there is a contractual obligation to have Thrasher do initial design work.
Board member Tom Shipley informed the board that he had conducted a tour of the PSD wastewater facilities with Environmental Training Center expert Rich Weigan, future board member David Litsey and PSD wastewater operators.
Shipley said the tour had been very productive and informative. He recommended a work session for the board to review a written report, which Weigan is preparing.
In other business, the PSD board:
-- unanimously approved expenditure of $2,000 to purchase a two-man boat from Beckley Marine, to be used for maintenance at the Snowshoe Village wastewater lagoon.
-- unanimously approved a letter of understanding with Region IV, Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, for administration of funds for the Durbin water upgrade project.
-- tabled action on a certificate of necessity for the Hawthorne Valley sewage collection system until Negley reviews the Thrasher contract.
-- tabled action on a deed to Black Bear Crossing until Negley has time to review associated documents.
-- tabled action on a standard agreement with property developers for mainline extensions until Negley has time for review.
-- tabled action on rental or purchase of office space until Negley has time for review.