PUB gets loan for $12.7M project

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg Utility Board received approval Wednesday for a loan to pay for a planned $12.7 million upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant, but the interest rate will be higher than originally anticipated.

Still, the recently approved increased sewer rates and budget submitted last month for the board’s consideration will be able to cover the anticipated additional $32,000 a year in debt service, utility board manager Eric Bennett said.

“It’s already factored into the budget,” he said. “It’s going to cut into some of the money that we had intended to take care of some of the increases (in costs) we have had over time.”

When the board submitted a proposal for funding the project last year to the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, it included a loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program that would be repaid over 20 years at an interest rate of half a percent.

“Due to other issues, they didn’t have money to fund us,” Bennett said.

Those other issues primarily consisted of projects that are part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency push to clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Bennett said. That means costly treatment plant upgrades for water systems in the Eastern Panhandle that drain into that watershed.

“Theirs is a higher priority” from the EPA’s perspective, Bennett said.

The $12,676,820 Parkersburg project is also part of an EPA mandate, this one to eliminate wet weather overflows infiltrating the sanitary sewer system by October of 2020. The upcoming project – which includes replacing the aging rotating biological contactors with an additional clarifier to maintain capacity and adding additional treatment apparatuses – must be completed by the end of 2016.

The board was notified in March that the revolving fund money would not be available.

“Therefore, we had to reapply for that same $12 million through the Infrastructure and Jobs Council,” said Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, chairman of the utility board.

That loan, for which approval was granted Wednesday, will also be paid back over 20 years, but the interest rate is 1 percent.

Work on the project is expected to start this fall.

“Hopefully, within the next 30 days we’ll be bidding it, and construction can begin around October or so,” Bennett said.