Ratepayers support Rigby plan
Snowshoe sewage customers voiced strong support for a decentralized sewage system at the Public Service District (PSD) board meeting Tuesday evening.
The debate over different sewage system designs has made adversaries of Snowshoe homeowners and resort management.
Snowshoe Mountain, Inc. and five major property owners support a single-plant system, designed by Thrasher Engineering, Inc. (TEI). The Snowshoe Property Owners Council (SPOC) and two members of the three-man PSD board support a decentralized system proposed by Waste Water Management, Inc. (WWMI).
The PSD board fired TEI in October 2010 and selected WWMI as its new engineer.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) gave conditional approval for a WWMI engineering agreement and ordered that the decentralized design "should result in a project proposal that will reasonably meet current and future needs of both the mountain and valley communities, and must serve the same properties that would have been served with construction of the Site 7- 12 project contemplated in the Thrasher Facilities Plan under the same terms and conditions that would have applied to those properties under such project."
The antagonists now debate the meaning of the PSC order.
The TEI plan includes a 1.5 million gallon per day (maximum daily flow) sewage plant, located near Linwood, to collect all wastewater from Snowshoe and the Linwood area. WWMI president David Rigby has proposed separate, smaller plants to serve the mountaintop resorts and the Linwood area.
Linwood resident and TEI plan proponent Russell Holt contends that sewage from his property must flow into a 1.5 million gpd plant in order for the WWMI design to provide service "under the same terms and conditions" as TEI's design.
During Tuesdays meeting, Holt accused board chairman Tom Shipley of denying valley residents equal sewage service.
"Shipley unlawfully and foolishly pontificates that he plans to bestow upon the valley 100,000 gallons of service instead of the 1.5 million gallons available in Thrasher's 7-12 plant that would serve all equally, as in the 'same terms and conditions,'" he said.
Proponents of the WWMI system argue that a plant serving the valley must only "reasonably meet current and future needs" of the valley community.
Six Snowshoe ratepayers and two other area residents spoke in favor of the WWMI concept during Tuesday's meeting.
Snowshoe resident and retired engineer Robert Forrest said TEI's design doesn't make sense.
"What does not make economic sense is to put a huge plant that is three times the size of all sewage generation, particularly when there is no land use plan in existence that projects this level of usage anywhere in the future," he said. "What does make economic sense is to put a plant in each sewage generation location, sized for current usage plus a reasonable capacity - five to 10 percent is reasonable. It also makes sense to have the ability to, in the future, be able to increase the size of any of these plants where justified by actual development."
Snowshoe resident Ira Maupin urged people to "stop all this bickering."
"We have a Rigby plan that will save the rate payers $10 million and still provide all the services to our community that the Thrasher plan was to provide," he said. "What's the problem? What's wrong with finding a good solution that is environmentally safe and which can be done for $10 million less?"
The PSC gave the PSD until November 10 to submit a preliminary design of the WWMI system. Snowshoe Mountain, Inc. and the landowners filed a motion on July 11 to stop planning on the decentralized system.
Snowshoe ratepayer Donelle Oxley decried efforts to derail Rigby's work.
"He will give you a plan that does exactly what he's been asked to do," she said. "It will serve the valley and Mr. Holt - although his paranoia insists on believing that he's not going to be served - he will be served and we will pay for it, because he's not going to pay for it."
Sam Collins, representing the Silver Creek Homeowners Association, said all of the association members he had spoken with supported the PSD and the WWMI concept.
"I haven't talked to all of our homeowners, up there, but probably 20 to 30 percent of them that we've spoke to and stuff and out of that 20 to 30 percent, I could safely say that probably 100 percent of that 20 to 30 percent who we spoke to fully back what the PSD is doing now," he said. "We're tired of the mud-slinging and the personal attacks. It doesn't get you anywhere."
Civil engineer George Poole, of Snowshoe, said he paid a water and sewage bill of more than $700 for a unit at Snowshoe last year.
"I'm paying by the bedroom whether a drop of water goes through or not," he said. "As far as - I'm willing to pay whatever my share is. But I'm damned sure not willing to pay to support anybody at the bottom of the mountain for what they have and if they want me to pay for their sewer, then why don't they help me pay for my Snowshoe assessment that I'm paying up there like crazy for."
Gil Willis, proprietor of Elk River Touring in Slaty Fork, wondered why resort management was not supporting the homeowners.
"I do not understand why the resort does not stand with this 1,960 odd units at the resort, because that makes no sense to me," he said. "Why isn't the resort supporting its homeowners? There's something else going on here. Who knows what it is, but it probably has to do with greed, money and who knows, maybe gambling. That could be on the horizon for this community."
After the public comment period, the board proceeded to agenda items. Board member David Litsey participated via teleconference.
TEI representative Matt Hayes updated the board on the recently completed B-F-D water project.
The engineer said 151 water service lines had been repaired, 11 more than originally planned. Hayes said there was $148,000 in leftover project funds, which can be used for project-related purposes, with funding agency approval.
Hayes recommended repainting of the interior and exterior of the Bartow water tank, at an estimated cost of nearly $57,000. Water manager Rick Barkley said the tank has not been painted for 31 years, whereas the manufacturer recommends every 15 years. Other potential projects include construction of a fence around the tank and a fence around the Durbin water plant.
The board tabled action until more estimates on the tank painting have been received.
Wastewater manager Lloyd Coleman said Potesta and Associates, Inc. had completed a design for a cutoff trench on the downhill side of the Snowshoe Village wastewater lagoon and that construction of the trench would cost approximately $20,000. The purpose of the trench is to prevent exfiltration of leaking wastewater, for which the utility received a notice of violation from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The board directed Coleman to send the engineering information to the DEP to obtain guidance on whether to complete the trench.
The board voted 3-0 to send a letter of engagement to accountant Michael Griffith to prepare the annual reports and annual budgets for the water and sewer accounts.
The letter will offer to hire the accountant if the work can be done for less than $15,000.
The board also will request Griffith's services for work on WWMI's decentralized sewage system preliminary design.
Board member Amon Tracey urged the board to restrain spending.
"It takes about six months, I understand, to get a rate increase in and get it approved," he said. "If we're not very careful, in six months, we're not going to have any money. Then we're going to ask for a rate increase. It's going to take six more months to get it. I'm not saying get a rate increase now but I'm damn sure saying we better start watching our money."
In other business, the PSD board:
- approved the monthly financial statements for July, which indicated $109,955.56 in total income and $164,414.31 in total expenses under the sewer account and $13,296.12 in total expenses and $9,672.97 in total income under the water account.
- tabled action on the purchase of an excavator until spring. Wastewater manager Lloyd Coleman said the wastewater branch has been renting an excavator from Mitchell's Chevrolet for $240 per day, whereas the utility could lease/purchase one for $2,800 per month.
- tabled action on installation of a concrete floor at the Silver Creek wastewater plant at an estimated cost of $3,500. Coleman said the floor was necessary to provide storage space for 55-gallon drums of chemicals.
The next regular meeting of the PSD board is scheduled for August 30, time and location to be announced.