Agreement reached for Blairton water

February 10, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - About 40 families in the tiny community of Blairton will get public water under a deal announced Thursday.

Representatives from the Berkeley County Public Service District, which has been negotiating for months to take over responsibility for providing water to the 50-acre village from a private quarry company, told the Berkeley County Commission that the deal is ready to be signed.

"The short version is, we have an agreement," said Clarence E. "CEM" Martin III, the water utility's attorney.

Issues still remain, however, between the community's residents and Riverton Corp., the company that has been providing water to the community for decades.

Residents sued the company more than two years ago in attempt to protect their water service and property rights.

Laura R. Rose, the residents' lawyer, said she objects to language in the agreement that says the deal is dependent on the suit being dismissed to Riverton's satisfaction.


"We've gone nowhere from the first time we went before you on this issue," she told the commissioners. "The Blairton community was not a part of this agreement."

The suit was prompted by concern that residents would lose water since Riverton had announced it was getting out of the water business.

But residents also expressed concern over decades-old leases that gave the company ownership of the land on which the houses sit.

Rose said she would file a motion next week in Berkeley County Circuit Court asking Judge Christopher Wilkes to dismiss the case without prejudice. That would allow residents to challenge the company again if it decided to exercise its lease and evict the residents.

Dismissing the suit with prejudice, however, would mean residents could not bring such a challenge at a future date, Rose said.

"The bottom line is, I'm not going to let my people be blackmailed," she said.

Riverton attorney Charles F. Printz Jr. insisted the company had negotiated in good faith.

"We're not in any way suggesting we're wanting to back away from this agreement," he said. "I'm a little sensitive when I hear that kind of remark."

Despite lingering concerns over the suit, the commissioners appeared relieved to put the nettlesome issue of water service behind them.

"We'd like to express our appreciation to everybody," said Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart.

Under the agreement, the Public Service District and Riverton each would provide $150,000 to extend public lines to the community. Both sides expect the state to kick in another $150,000.

If the final cost exceeds that amount, Riverton and the utility agreed to begin new negotiations over how to split the remaining costs. Both sides would also have the right to void the agreement.

Harlan Greenfield, a representative of the Blairton residents, credited the County Commission for forging the deal.

"If it had not been for (their involvement), I'm not sure where we'd be," he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles