PSD receives response to proposal from state agencies
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Public Service Commission recently filed a response to the Pocahontas County Public Service District's proposed wastewater facility. According to PSD board president Tom Shipley, the response was a good one.
"The tone was very positive," said Shipley. "They had several questions, but I don't think it's out of the ordinary for a project to still have questions and blanks that need to be filled in. It looks like things are going along fine. In fact, the DEP engineer and Waste Water Management, Inc. are meeting on May 3. They're going to spend a good part of the day trying to answer those questions and the few concerns that they [the DEP] have. The board will get a summary from the DEP and WWMI at 5. It'll give the board an update on where we are and what we need to do to help. There's still a lot of work to do."
Shipley is encouraged the PSC will sign off on the proposal and said the board is considering tapping into reimbursement funding through the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council.
"We believe the Public Service Commission is going to give us permission to go forward with our project," Shipley said. "When that happens we will possibly approach the IJDC to see if we can take a draw-down on an already authorized advance on the project. A lot of our expenses have been legal or design work for the project. That is not ordinarily something that comes out of a running budget. So if we get reimbursed for those costs, it'll give us an opportunity to take care of some projects that Lloyd [Coleman, PSD water plant operator] wants to do."
Shipley said another milestone took place last week at the board's regular monthly meeting. A land donation agreement between the PSD and Snowshoe was signed by board members.
"We signed the agreement with Snowshoe for the land," Shipley said. "In my mind, that's extremely important."
PSD board member David Litsey voiced concerns over the language in the land donation agreement before it was signed. Litsey felt some of the wording was too restricting.
"The very last sentence, it says, 'donee agrees to provide and implement a landscaping plan with mounded planter beds, densely populated with mature native evergreen and hardwood species, suitably chosen with the design and purpose of creating a natural blind for the sewage treatment plant structure,'" said Litsey.
"My question is, the native evergreens around here tend to be red spruce and hemlock. Neither of which are enjoying great success at this altitude. Red spruce is a surface rooted tree that blows over when it's not in a thick stand. Mature hardwoods species? Well I've got maple and cherry trees over on my land that are easily more than a hundred years old, so what are we talking about 'mature'? That sentence seems to be unnecessarily binding. I think it's one of those things that could really create a nightmare."
Shipley agreed, but said he didn't want to risk losing the donation.
"I don't think the property is worth losing over the diameter of a tree," said Shipley. "I'm not trying to make light of your concern, I think it's a legitimate concern. My position is that we need to get an agreement done and demonstrate to the Public Service Commission that we have a site to put this plant."
Board members telephoned Snowshoe chief operations officer Frank DeBerry, who cordially settled the matter over a conference call, despite the late hour.
DeBerry said that Snowshoe was looking for some sort of visual screening using evergreens that fit the general landscape. He said Snowshoe was willing to work with the board and they were not concerned where the trees came from, and were even willing to transplant existing trees from elsewhere on Snowshoe property.
PSD treasurer Ricky Barkley updated board members on the board's current finances. Barkley said that if the board were to pay all its current bills, they'd probably be close to even right now.
"Close to even? Well that's an improvement," commented PSD board member Amon Tracey. "If all bills were paid, as we speak, we would probably break even. That's something new."
Shipley explained the encouraging budgetary update.
"One of the things we've done is we've cut back our spending," he said. "We had a very successful work session a few days ago where we asked the managers to give us their best shot at a budget. Then we asked Lloyd what his needs and wants were for regular maintenance and also for special projects that he thought were important. Then the board, separately, discussed what priorities we had as far as dollars. We worked on water and sewer. We worked through all the issues and timelines and possible scenarios."
Shipley talked with board members about a recent complaint he'd received regarding animals in the PSD office.
"I received a call from the county commission secretary," said Shipley. "A complaint was filed by a rate payer at the water department. It was said that they attempted to pay a bill and they were made uncomfortable by dogs in the office. There may be a more detailed and complicated version of what may have happened when this individual came to call, but the fact is that there were dogs in the office."
Shipley told the county commission he would bring up the issue with the other PSD board members and then update the commissioners, and the individual who made the complaint, on what may or may not be done.
"Pets and dogs and animals are invaluable and much loved by many people, but there's also the issue of health and cleanliness," said Shipley. "Aside from that there is the issue of a perception by people that come to pay the bills, whether they feel comfortable or not. I'm inclined to encourage the board to look into a policy on animals in the workplace."
Barkley told board members the issue has come up in the past, but after checking with state officials, there were no laws prohibiting animals in the office.
"This issue came up three or four years ago," Barkley explained. "I contacted the health department and the Public Service Commission. They've been there, and the dogs have been there. The health department said they go to several plants where there's dogs and cats, and they have no problems with it."
Barkley told board members the Chihuahua and Pomeranian in question are friendly and adored by ratepayers and visitors.
"Each month, there are three customers that come down and pay their bills," said Barkley. "Those three play with the dogs and pet 'em, the UPS man comes in and plays with them and feeds 'em, gives 'em treats."
Board members agreed to table the issue until their next meeting.
The PSD is scheduled to meet again for a work session at the Jerry Holder office Thursday, May 3, at 5 p.m.