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Districts agree to idea of single water line

June 03, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County's three public service districts have agreed to sign off on a concept to share a single water line from the Potomac River while keeping their current sources and their right to expand.

At a meeting to discuss the proposal Tuesday, members of the Hedgesville, Berkeley and Opequon service districts said they will reword it to protect those rights and then forward it to the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council for consideration.

Berkeley County Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham said each district would still control its rates and individual sources.

It's too early to estimate costs or how it will affect current water customers, Dunham said. But it would allow water to flow in rural areas, he said.

The commissioners stressed that the plan is not a consolidation.

"The concept is to run a line reaching all the populated areas of the county. Where this line goes is immaterial," said Richard Beegle, general manager of the Opequon Public Service District.

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The plan needs to be at the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council before it meets June 22 because the City of Martinsburg also has a plan before the council for an $8.1 million water treatment expansion.

The council probably won't choose between the projects, but rather try to work with both plans to come up with the most inexpensive plans for the city and the county, a spokeswoman said last week.

The city's expansion - which was required by the Department of Health - is already before the council. The county's plan could hinder its chances for approval and funding, City Manager Mark Baldwin said.

Martinsburg was not included in the proposal endorsed Tuesday. The Department of Health ordered the city to build a treatment plant, "and at the last minute, the last hour, the conceptual plan is brought up," Baldwin said.

"We have to meet that compliance schedule. We couldn't stop midstream and backtrack at the last second. It wasn't that we weren't trying to cooperate," he said.

Smith said the idea of a countywide district surfaced when the Opequon Public Service District sent a letter to the commission suggesting it.

"Frankly, that makes a whole bunch of sense to me," Smith said.

Smith said parts of the county aren't being serviced, which is why the City of Martinsburg stepped in and took over Martin's Landing - a territory the Opequon district is still fighting in court to get back.

The plan does allow Martinsburg's water department to connect wherever it wanted.

"We better get this connected or we better turn around and help the city do it," said Commission President James Smith.

"It's the growth that's important. It's the jobs that are important."

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