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Resident blasts sewer plant in Jefferson County

November 14, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A controversial $25 million sewer plant proposed for Jefferson County again came under attack at the Jefferson County Commission meeting Thursday.

George F. Nichols, of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., expressed his concerns about the cost of the project and suggested it could hurt people on fixed incomes.

Nichols said his last monthly water and sewer bill was $105, about 2 1/2 times more than it used to be.

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Nichols is on a separate central water and sewer system in Shenandoah Junction, which could be tied into the proposed sewer plant if it is built, county officials said.

"We don't want to pay any more. It's just not affordable. We'll be paying a long time if this $25 million is put on us," Nichols said.

Commissioner Greg Corliss, who has expressed concerns about the project, has said he believes water and sewer bills could double if the plant is built, possibly running up to $200 a month for some customers.

A group of housing developers in the county is being asked to contribute to the cost of the plant's design phase, which will cost about $1.6 million, according to Susanne Lawton, manager of the Jefferson County Public Service District, the agency proposing the plant.

It is possible sewer rates could increase for the district's 1,379 sewer customers if enough money cannot be obtained from developers to help pay for the plant, Lawton has said.

On Thursday, Corliss said the lingering questions for him regarding the project are "why, and who is this for."

Corliss said he is convinced the plant is being built for housing developers.

"I don't see us as being better off" as a result of the plant, Corliss said.

Corliss said two towns and a local land conservancy group have written letters of "non-support" for the plant. The letters were written by the Jefferson County towns of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, and the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, Corliss said.

The project has generated complaints relating to the confusing, voluminous report that explains it, the fact the plant is being proposed before long-term land planning for the county is finished and related issues.

On Nov. 6, Charles Town City 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."

Among Ward's concerns is that the plant could take potential customers from Charles Town's sewer plant, forcing the city to raise sewer rates.

Public service district officials say the new plant is needed to serve new developments between Charles Town and Harpers Ferry.

Numerous steps need to be taken in order for the plant to become reality, including review of the plan by the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council.

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

As part of their review process, the commissioners want the Jefferson County Planning Commission and the commission's advisory board to review the proposal.

The plant is on the planning commission's agenda next Tuesday, Commissioner Rusty Morgan said.

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