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City officials opposed to sewer plans in Jefferson County

November 13, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town city officials are the latest to express concerns about a proposed $25 million sewer plant in Jefferson County, saying the "seriously flawed" proposal should be rejected because it is costly and could result in the city losing some of its sewer customers, forcing an increase in rates.

The Jefferson County Public Service District wants to build the plant along Cattail Run near where it empties into the Shenandoah River east of Charles Town.

The sewage treatment plant is needed to serve new housing developments popping up in the area north of U.S. 340 between Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and Charles Town, said Wilbur Smith, the public service district's engineer.

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Some county residents have expressed concerns, such as why it is being proposed when the county still is developing a long-range plan for growth in coming years.

On Nov. 6, Charles Town Council member Matt Ward sent a four-page letter to the public service district, describing the project as "seriously flawed" and "potentially very harmful to the community."

Charles Town officials have considered expanding their plant, an alternative to the new $25 million proposal, which they say has not been fully explored.

Ward said in his letter that Charles Town's sewer plant could cost about $8 million to serve an additional 1,600 households.

The proposed Cattail Run plant would serve only 1,200 homes, thereby costing "more than three times the dollars to serve three-fourths of the customers."

"This is a waste of public and ratepayers money," Ward wrote.

Susannne Lawton, general manager of the public service district, said Wednesday that Ward's numbers are wrong, and that the plant will serve 5,600 homes.

Ward said he might have gotten it wrong. He said it is difficult to understand the proposal because a 900-page report explaining the project is "cryptically written."

Ward, an attorney who specializes in community redevelopment, said he had to call the public service district office to find out which sewer plan the agency was pursuing because it was not clear in the report.

Another county resident told the Jefferson County Commission recently that the 900-page report is overwhelming and the acronyms used are confusing.

"It stinks worse than the sewer," Ward said of the report.

Lawton said the public service district has no intention of rejecting the proposal as Ward suggests, but she said the agency will respond to concerns he raised in his letter.

Ward raises many issues in his letter, including noting the City of Charles Town never has supported the project.

Ward said in his letter that Smith has stated publicly that the city supports the new plant.

Charles Town City Council members have not taken an official stance on the plan, but a number of city officials, including City Manager Jane Arnett, have voiced concern or opposition, Ward said.

"The city of Charles Town has not bought into this new plant," Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton said in an interview Tuesday night.

It's not surprising that city officials are raising concerns about the newest proposal, Lawton said.

"We will address those concerns," Lawton said.

Numerous steps need to be taken for the plant to become reality, including review of the plan by the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which would have to issue discharge permits for the plant, Public Service District officials have said.

The infrastructure and jobs development council has asked the Jefferson County Commission to give its blessing to the project as part of the council's review process, Lawton said.

The proposed plant is on the commissioner's agenda today, but Commission President Jane Tabb said Wednesday she did not expect any action to be taken on the plan because the County Planning Commission and the commissioners' water advisory committee have requested more time to review it.

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