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Town of Bath moves ahead with next pipe project

February 21, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The Bath Town Council focused its attention on the Berkeley Springs Water Works, the town-owned water department, at its meeting Tuesday night.

The council unanimously approved paying Thrasher Engineering $4,500 for a preliminary construction cost estimate for the next water pipe replacement project called Phase II.

Thrasher headed up the $2.4 million, year-long pipe replacement project completed last September.

More than 98 percent of the century-old pipes in town were replaced, but the pipes outside of town are leaking. About 22,000 linear feet of pipe needs to be replaced, Mayor Susan J. Webster said.

The water department continues to lose about 56 percent of its water through the leaking pipes, said Councilman David Crosby, the finance committee chairman and water committee member.

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Crosby said the council will have to make a decision at the next meeting on the new flat water rate. He said he would like the new rate to go into effect July 1.

The flat rate of $9 per 1,000 gallons would bring in about $127,000 more a year in revenues, Crosby said.

"We need this new rate to address the pipe project and capacity problems," he said.

"It's a scarce resource," Crosby said. The water department is pumping at an 80 percent capacity, and a moratorium on new water taps has been in effect since 2005.

Crosby said more than 400 customers are on a waiting list for new water tap hook-ups that cannot be accommodated until the moratorium is lifted, according to West Virginia Public Service Commission rules.

The council decided to take the draft water rate ordinance to the town attorney, Richard Gay, and "plug in" the rate of $9, $8 or $8.50 when the council members decide, so the administrative portion will be ready by the next meeting.

Webster said there was "sensitivity" about the issue, but "I'm not saying I'm against it," she said.

Webster said the town recently applied for a $2 million federal 2009 Appropriations Grant for the pipe project through the office of U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

She said the new water pipe replacement project is an "economic development bottleneck," and she asked all Morgan County residents to contact Capito's office to help push for the funding.

Webster said the town also applied for an additional $200,000 federal 2009 Appropriations Grant from Capito for the water-security system that would include cameras and fencing around the water tanks and the water source.

Crosby said the council needs to move forward with the new water rate. "We cannot count on getting a grant to pay for this project and upgrades," he said.

He said the plant is keeping its head above water financially, "but that's about all, and we need to be able to pay for some upgrades and continual repairs."

Carol Crabtree, executive director from Region 9, the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council, spoke to the council members about using Region 9 to obtain a Small Cities Block Grant to help pay for the new water project.

Crabtree said state or federal assistance might be available to help with funding for the water problem. She said Thrasher is very familiar with Region 9 and Small Cities Block Grants.

The Town of Bath is the local government inside Berkeley Springs.

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