PSD is making progress
The Pocahontas County Public Service District held a special meeting last week to affirm a resolution from the previous week, for a new wastewater project.
According to PSD board president Tom Shipley, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection requested the action, and it's really just a matter of protocol.
"The DEP asked us to do that, for clarity's sake," said Shipley. "They need it for the review of our project."
Shipley said the DEP, the West Virginia Public Service Commission and their engineers have been working closely with the PSD's engineering firm, Waste Water Management Inc.
"They've been in close communication," he said. "They've talked about all the issues. If there's any questions, Mr. [Bob] Coontz [of the DEP] has been extremely cooperative and helpful. It seems like they're working as a team. That's what state agencies are there for, to work with the PSDs and assist. That's what they've done and we're very appreciative of that."
At last week's meeting, several area residents and business owners spoke about the project. Snowshoe resident Bob Forrest read a letter co-written by area homeowner Mike Pancione. Forrest talked about future development in the valley.
"With no new or different recreational activities in the county, why are significantly more people going to come here to buy or build homes? Skiing and golf are at best stable, or more likely in decline as recreational activities - possibly driven by the economy," Forrest said. "Others, such as mountain biking, hiking, fishing, caving, etc., do not attract sufficient numbers of tourists to conceive causing a building boom. One thing that is certain though, people aren't coming here for a new sewer system."
Pancione added, "The sewer system should accommodate what is here now and be able to adapt to what comes. A sewer system that can accommodate growth when the growth materializes, we're in favor of. One that builds for growth before the growth happens, is one that we're absolutely not in favor of."
Area resident Ira Maupin voiced his appreciation of the board's efforts and compared the project and the PSD with a major league baseball team.
"You all are heavy hitters," remarked Maupin. "I feel like I've been seeing a big league baseball game for about the last ten years. I feel that way because frankly, I think you've been tossed so many curveballs that it is amazing."
Maupin said he knows the board's work with the DEP and PSC hasn't been easy.
"This has been a very complicated process at practically every turn of the road," Maupin said. "It's hard to work for two or more bosses. Yet, you gentleman, you've gotten through all of this and I think you've hit some home runs along the way. One of the biggest ones, is the support that you have been able to obtain from a large number of people who live in this affected area - most of whom are rate-payers. I want to personally thank you for enduring the frustration, the criticism and the lack of support from time to time."
Local business owner and resident Gil Willis echoed the sentiment of appreciation.
"I hope we're close to the end of this long, painful journey - keep up the good work," Willis remarked.
Not everyone in attendance agreed with the board's decision. Snowshoe resident Russell Holt expressed his displeasure with the board's actions and criticized WWMI engineer Dr. David Rigby.
"Mr. Rigby has failed to perform the task," Holt said. "He still has 39 deficiencies- he had 64, he now has 39. Mr. Bob Coontz is now holding his hand and helping him through the process. To me, that states that if he was qualified, he wouldn't need hand holding."
Shipley read a resolution of the prior week's vote and the board voted 2-1 to affirm the resolution. Board member Amon Tracey cast the nay vote, but requested to include a statement on why he voted no for the record. Tracey said a centralized facility would be cheaper to build, and cheaper to run when it comes to operation and maintenance.
Shipley said the board has made every effort to review input from the public throughout the course of the project.
"We've listened to the hopes and dreams and needs and wants of everyone who has had the opportunity to come before us and speak with us," Shipley said. "We have to assess all those. We've had a fair and thorough discussion and we've come to a decision that I'm happy with. It's been a long road, but I think we're pretty close."