PUB passes $22M budget

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg Utility Board approved the approximately $22 million 2014-15 budget proposed by staff with no amendments Thursday.

The budget increases operational and management expenses by a little over $7,000 over the current fiscal year while saving as much as $26,000 by freezing the merit pay increase system.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bare-bones budget,” utility board Vice Chairman John Lutz said after Thursday’s meeting at the board’s administrative office. “I think the staff should be commended for keeping operational costs that low.”

The budget includes a 1.5 percent raise for employees, based on the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, something the board has done since 2004. The merit pay system was suspended, which PUB manager Eric Bennett previously attributed to it not working the way they’d hoped, in addition to criticism from Parkersburg City Council members over PUB employees receiving higher raises than city workers.

The PUB is an autonomous entity that relies on council to approve its rates.

There will be an increase of nearly $3 million in the budget for capital expenditures as a major upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant is expected to begin this fall.

The budget was approved unanimously, with board member Gregory Herrick absent.

In other business Thursday, the board gave unanimous approval to an agreement for Parkersburg-based Burgess & Niple to evaluate a possible connection with the City of Vienna’s water system.

“Vienna is interested in an emergency connection … if they’re ever in need of water, and I haven’t been bashful in saying I want to sell them water,” Bennett said.

The cost of the engineering services would not exceed $36,600. Bennett said the board would pay the fee and be reimbursed for half the expense by Vienna, which the Vienna Utility Board approved during its Thursday evening meeting.

Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp has said his only interest at this time is in an emergency connection between the two cities.

The board also approved a maximum of $17,300 for additional inspection duties by Burgess & Niple on work on a clarifier at the treatment plant that has taken longer than initially expected to complete.