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County seeks relief for Inwood flooding

June 09, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Inwood, W.Va., developer Doug Bayer told the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday that he's willing to donate the land needed for a project that would help alleviate flooding in the southern county community of Inwood, but time is of the essence.

During an appearance in commission chambers, Bayer, who said he's already spent $250,000 to develop a stormwater management pond for the 385-unit Webber Springs subdivision he is currently building, told the group he'd donate land to build a $2.3 million box culvert to help reduce problems caused by high volumes of stormwater in the area, but there was soon coming a time beyond which he couldn't wait for the project to be completed.

"I'm not going to sell (the land) to the county; I'm going to give it to the county, but there is a time limit," Bayer said.

The commission responded by taking a first step toward getting the full $12 million to $14 million project under way by authorizing legal counsel Norwood Bentley to prepare the establishment of a countywide public service district for stormwater management.

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"We've waited a long time in this county to resolve problems with stormwater management," Bentley said. "This would be a big step and commit the county to a countywide management of the problem, particularly with flooding in the southern part of the county."

Bentley said the county has two options toward managing stormwater, either by recommending to the state's Public Service Commission a public utility just for that purpose, or by recommending combining it with one of the county's other two public service utilities, the water district or the sewer district.

The effort to develop a stormwater project in the area of late has been one of fits and starts, with the Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation District earlier this spring begging off oversight of the project, and Thrasher Engineering recommending to start the project on Bayer's property, changing where it was originally determined to begin.

Berkeley County Public Service Water District Chairman Bill Stubblefield told the commission he questioned if forming a new utility was the best course of action.

"People ... are always willing to pay for what they receive, but in this case they may or may not be receiving something," said Stubblefield, adding he supported efforts to relieve flooding issues in Inwood, but didn't believe flooding was a countywide problem.

"There's no question we need to do something," Stubblefield said. "If we had a countywide problem, unquestionably a PSD would be appropriate, but there's going to be other sections of the county asking why do I have to make a contribution?"

Bayer disagreed, calling stormwater issues a problem throughout Berkeley County.

In an interview after the meeting, Stubblefield said he feared county residents would be billed in a way that was more like a fire and ambulance fee, which is at a constant rate, rather than as a user fee, which can vary from month to month.

County engineer William "Bucky" Teach said he hopes to have a recommendation for the design of the stormwater project by July.

"It's going to be complicated and we want to make sure everything is looked into so we're not moving the problem from one place to the other," Teach said.

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