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Berkeley sewer district needs some better p.r.

March 25, 2004

We agree with Bob Grove, chairman of the Berkeley County, W.Va., Public Service Sewer District, that hooking citizens up to public sewer is a matter of public health.

But judging by the complaints of the citizens who attended a Tuesday meeting, working with the public is not the district's strong suit. The south county project is a long way from completion and a little public relations would go a long way toward making it run smoothly.

Two years ago district officials said that project was being done to clean up the water table, which has been contaminated by runoff and failed septic systems.

If your system isn't failing and your well hasn't been affected, you may view charges for hooking up and for extending lines to your home as unnecessary.

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But for the system to be financially feasible, all who live within a reasonable distance of the main line must hook up.

If you want to do that and can't, either because your contractor couldn't dig through this winter's snow pack, or worse, you weren't able to find anyone to do the work, should the district assess you $37 a month, for no service at all?

We'd say "no," in part because residents have been told that when it comes to dealing with contractors, they're on their own.

Instead of this "it's not our problem" attitude, why not encourage homeowners in an area to band together, hire one contractor and get all the work done at once?

A contractor should welcome being able to schedule all the work at the same time, and homeowners wouldn't have their yards torn up more than once.

On the issue of placement of the main lines, gravity flow and the lay of the land will probably dictate where lines are placed.

If so, why tell homeowners that their preference mattered?

And as for asking residents for Social Security numbers to assess their credit, unpaid utility bills ought to be a lien on the property. That's bad news for the landlords whose tenants "skip town," but security deposits should cover such expenses for them.

The bottom line: The district needs to work with its customers, instead of just issuing edicts for them to follow. The people who pay the bills deserve some respect for their money.

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