PSD one step closer to site selection for plant
The Public Service District made more progress toward resolving the issues it faces in constructing a wastewater treatment facility in the Snowshoe area during a special meeting last week, according to PSD board president Tom Shipley.
"Things look really, really good. We had the core samples and resistivity studies come back for the Inn at Snowshoe site; they passed with flying colors," said Shipley. "That was a big part of the meeting. That gives us more options. The price for the Inn at Snowshoe was the lowest of the three sites. With no question about the karst or any springs there, that opens up potential for a good outcome."
Shipley said the board made progress in meetings with landowners, as well.
"We are talking one-on-one, face-to-face, with some of the complainants, and we're working with them on possible land acquisition. We're working all these things out. I feel like the legal burden has been quite heavy on us. I see those legal bills winding down considerably, and we'll have a bit more breathing room," said Shipley.
The PSD has struggled for more than a decade with its plan to build a new wastewater treatment facility at Linwood. The board has faced everything from environmental issues to costly litigation with landowners.
"I feel that we're coming together. Our engineer is talking on a daily basis with a representative from Snowshoe to address their concerns," said Shipley. "We're working on addressing issues that would lower the cost of Site 7 considerably; we've made great progress."
The cost for all three sites has reduced, due in part to the work of engineer Dr. David Rigby and his firm, Waste Water Management, Inc., according toﾠPSD board member DavidﾠLitsey.
"In following up on one of the questions that one of the Department of Environmental Protection engineers did, he [Rigby] found a way to cut money out of all the three possible solutions," said Litsey.
The board sent out notifications this week to property owners, reminding them that there is a penalty if bills aren't paid on time.
"There is, in fact, a late fee if you haven't paid by the due date," said Litsey.
Bills were unclear regarding late penalties, according to Shipley.
"The penalties were enforced, but the bills were a bit ambiguous. There was a blank on the computer-generated rate cards that provided space to inform the customer of a late fee. Due to a software glitch, that hadn't been filled out, so it was a little unclear if you were a customer receiving a bill. We also decided to send out a notice about the policy so people don't read their bill and all of a sudden see a new category," said Shipley.
The board also sent residents a questionnaire to update its records.
"We included a survey that we've been talking about for many, many weeks," said Shipley. "The survey asks them to list the number of bedrooms or efficiencies, whether they have a lockout door between an efficiency and another part of their residence, things like that. These are housekeeping things, but they're very important when you're doing a budget."
The board recently took a more proactive approach to its day-to-day operations.
"As a result of viewing the finances, we're doing some updating for the board's knowledge and getting more involved in the daily coming and goings of office work," said Shipley.
PSD board member Amon Tracey is a little more skeptical regarding the state of the board's finances.
"We all know we're in bad trouble. We're still running in the red, but we're hoping to get out. If we can just watch our buying. We've spent a lot of money on attorneys and engineers; that would've been pretty good to have that in the bank now," he said. "I'm very, very afraid that in two months we're going to be in worse shape than we are today."
Litsey said the financial crunch will be short-lived and expects money from ratepayers to start flowing.
"We're supposed to get a big chunk of money again this week," said Litsey.
Tracey acknowledges that the board is working on a deadline but said there is still more the board needs to learn about the different site options.
"I'd like to see a plant over there soon. We don't yet know where it's going to be. There's information we're lacking yet," said Tracey.
With another special meeting scheduled this week and its regular meeting scheduled for January 31, the board is one step closer to making a decision on where the facility will be built, Shipley believes.
"The deadline is in a few weeks. We'll get all our information well in advance of that deadline to help us make a decision," said Shipley.