Webster says she's sorry water line repair caused 'distraction'

November 09, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Mayor Susan Webster apologized Monday to the Bath Town Council for the "distractions" caused by a water line repair on Monte Vita, her private property.

Webster said at Monday night's council meeting that Council member David Crosby, who chairs the town's finance committee and is a member of the water committee, asked her for a timeline of events surrounding the repair of 325 feet of more than a 1,500-foot water line on her property.

The work was done in 2004 by Berkeley Springs Water Works, the town-owned water department.

Webster is the Berkeley Springs Water Works CEO and chairs the Bath Town Council water committee.

She said the water department assumed responsibility for the leaking water line and repairs were started after Kevin Hancock, superintendent of the water department, was told in a telephone conversation with a West Virginia Public Service Commission employee that Webster's private water line should be a public line.


At the Sept. 19 council meeting, Councilman Tom Hall accused Webster of having the water department repair part of her private water line and said it should never have assumed responsibility for the line. He asked if the water committee recommended the council assume responsibility.

"If the committee did not make the recommendation to take the line over, who authorized the repair work?" Hall said on Sept. 19.

Webster said after Hall raised the issue, she asked Geert Bakker, the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) chief utilities manager in the water and wastewater division in Charleston, W.Va., to come to Berkeley Springs to look at the service line on the property.

Webster said Bakker's opinion at the time the repairs were made to the line was that it was still a private line and Webster should pay for the repairs. She said she has paid about $3,800 to the water department.

"We are abiding by what the PSC asked us to do," Webster said.

Webster included in her series of events "a similar situation with a long service line taken over by Berkeley Springs Water Works," she said, which was property owned by Jim Grove and Don Sharp on Johnson's Mill Road.

Grove and Sharp attended the council meeting, along with Webster's husband, Pete Moss.

In 1999, the town council "approved to waive the connection fee only," Webster said, regarding the leaking Grove-Sharp water line.

There was nothing in the council meeting minutes regarding the water department "taking over" the line, Webster said.

Crosby said it was his opinion "the water department should be very careful in taking over long water lines." He said the water department spent about $3,000 to repair the Grove-Sharp line.

Crosby asked Webster: "Does the Berkeley Springs Water Works contract to put in water lines for people?" and Webster answered that it does. "I talked to Tom (Hall), and the price was not feasible."

Hall used to run the water department before resigning in June 2002. He was elected to a two-year term on the town council in July.

Webster said in 2004, she and Moss decided to do the repairs and asked Hancock to look into it.

Crosby said "this is awkward as chair of the water committee." Webster agreed.

"In the future," Crosby said, "any council member should recuse themselves." Crosby said "no member on the water committee should directly deal with the water department."

Webster suggested a policy should be made by the council.

Crosby suggested a policy also should be made regarding long service lines and Webster agreed.

"The PSC conversation between Hancock should have been in writing, and wrong information was given," Crosby said.

Webster said "we are sorry for the distraction and hard feelings this has caused."

Hall said, "We would not be here if the PSC was contacted correctly and waited until the letter was received" regarding Webster's private line.

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