Parkersburg officials eye sewer rate hike

PARKERSBURG – Parkersburg City Council’s Finance Committee will hear a sewer rate increase proposal outlined and the Public Works Committee will get an update on a proposed concert area near the Fifth Street Bridge Tuesday before the full council meets.

Parkersburg Utility Board manager Eric Bennett presented the sewer rate increase plan to the finance committee in October, saying an increase of 9 percent in the first year and 6 percent a year in three subsequent years was needed to address rising costs and meet state and federal stormwater runoff requirements.

Councilman John Kelly said at the time he understood the need for some increase but felt the amount proposed was too much.

Bennett said recently that enacting a lesser hike wouldn’t do much good.

“If we don’t get the entire increase now, we will be back very shortly for (an) additional increase,” he said.

The proposal would raise the base customer charge from $14.35 now to $15.64, ideally by July 1, then $16.58 the following year, $17.57 the year after that and $18.63 in 2017.

The volume charge would go from the current $5.56 per 1,000 gallons to $6.06 in the first year, $6.42 in the second and $6.81 in the third before reaching $7.22 at the end of the four-year period.

The overall percentage increases are based on an average customer using 4,000 gallons of water a month, Bennett said.

In addition to dealing with rising material costs, the utility board is required to meet stormwater runoff guidelines by Oct. 31, 2020, and must begin assembling the funding to accomplish that.

“Part of this increase is due to an additional upgrade at the plant and other improvements to reach our final goal, which is elimination of all wet-weather-related overflows from the sanitary sewer collection system,” Bennett said.

The finance committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in council chambers.

An hour before, council’s Public Works Committee will meet in the small conference room on the second floor of the Municipal Building to consider a concert area proposed by local businessman Norm Payne and a group of investors.

The proposal for the site near the Fifth Street Bridge and city skate park has been discussed in committee multiple times, and Councilman Mike Reynolds, chairman of the committee, is optimistic the committee will have all of its questions answered Tuesday.

“I think we’re trying to finalize things so the committee can either vote it up and send it to council or whatever they decide to do,” he said.

The agenda for the full council meeting is rather light. After the announcement of committee assignments by council President John Rockhold, there are a pair of resolutions to consider; however, each involves a considerable amount of money.

The first is to authorize an election for renewal of the existing levy to operate the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority bus system. Parkersburg’s share is a little over $1.8 million.

The second would authorize Mayor Bob Newell to enter an agreement with the West Virginia Development Office for $35,000 in land and water conservation funding to build an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant miniature golf course at Southwood Park. This would replace the one torn down in 2011 to make room for a water retention system at the park.

The city will be required to match the state’s contribution.

“The match will be mostly in-kind services,” Newell said. “It doesn’t have to be cash.”