PSD gives employees pay raise
After combing through balance sheets to find every nickel and dime, the county water and sewer utility gave its employees a three-percent pay raise.
The Pocahontas County Public Service District (PSD) held a special meeting on April 8 to deal with just two agenda items: the pay raise and an engineering contract modification.
The PSD was ready to act on the pay raise during its regular meeting on March 29, but board chairman Tom Shipley requested more time for review of water operations finances, which are near the break-even point.
During the special meeting, the board reviewed the water account with board treasurer Ricky Barkley, who is also the water operations manager. Barkley advised the board on the status of repayment of his back travel pay and also reviewed what he expects to be cost savings in the near future.
Barkley said the Durbin water upgrade project would save the utility an estimated $3,000 a year in electricity and chemical costs. Construction of the $432,000 project began this month and is expected to be finished this fall. When the project is completed, the utility will have much fewer leaks to repair, which Barkley estimated would save another $500 - $600 per occurrence.
The review of the water account assured board members that the utility had sufficient funds for an across-the board pay raise and it voted 3-0 to approve the raise, which will take effect in July. The PSD has six employees: two in the water operations branch and four in the wastewater operations branch.
The PSD also took action to correct a deficiency in a proposed engineering contract with Waste Water Management, Inc. (WWMI), which the utility chose to design a Snowshoe area sewage system.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) staff criticized the PSD for not including a contingency clause in the contract, which makes payment for certain engineering services contingent on approval of project funding by state agencies. The PSC staff said ratepayers were put at risk without the clause, because they could pay for services that are, ultimately, not necessary.
Board attorney Chris Negley presented a draft letter of agreement, containing language to modify the WWMI contract to include the contingency clause. The board voted 3-0 to approve the letter of agreement, which was subsequently signed by WWMI president David Rigby and submitted to the Public Service Commission (PSC) on April 18.
The board concluded the meeting with an executive session with attorney William Turner, who is defending the PSD in a circuit court lawsuit brought by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP is seeking fines as high as $25,000 per day for water discharge violations. The board took no action after returning to open session.
The PSC is expected to announce its decision on whether it will pursue receivership for the Snowshoe sewage project and a decision on the WWMI contract by May 10. The proposed contract and other project documents can be viewed at the PSC website at www.psc.wv.state.us. Search case number 11-0028.