Wood County Commission talks PSD consolidations

Photo by Evan Bevins Wood County Commission President Blair Couch discusses potential consolidation of public service districts during the commission’s meeting Thursday.

PARKERSBURG — Members of the Union Williams Public Service District said they’d be willing to look at consolidation with other utilities if it helps those they serve.

“If it’s beneficial to the customers, to the service and their well-being, we would be in favor of it,” said Steve Nulter, chairman of the board.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch asked about consolidation Thursday when Nulter, fellow board member Greg Arnott and General Manager Jerry Dotson appeared before commissioners to ask them to appoint a third board member. The seat has been vacant since Howard Seufer stepped down in June, prior to his death.

Union Williams serves 3,200 customers in northern Wood and southern Pleasants County.

Couch said commissioners have discussed consolidating local public service districts — Boaz, Claywood Park, Lubeck and Mineral Wells in addition to Union Williams — in part because the state Legislature recently gave commissions approval authority over the entities’ rate increases.

Photo by Evan Bevins Union Williams Public Service District Manager Jerry Dotson answers a question from Wood County commissioners during the commission’s meeting Thursday.

Dotson and commissioners agreed that there aren’t many areas in the county left for public service districts to expand. Areas without public water and sewer service tend to be so sparsely populated that tying them into existing systems is cost-prohibitive.

“It’s not economically prudent to spend that much money,” Arnott said.

While each public service district board has three members, Couch said consolidation would likely require a larger body. Other issues to be addressed would include bonds issued by the various districts and equipment, since some districts have their own and others contract out for work.

Then there are concerns over losing local control.

“Nobody likes to give up their pond,” Dotson said.

Couch said he was just looking for feedback from the Union Williams representatives and people from other districts should be brought together to discuss the issue further.

“Maybe we’ll have a bigger meeting, but we’ll certainly get you a third board member,” he said.

The Union Williams representatives submitted a name to commissioners for consideration. Couch said the commission would have to get information about that individual before putting the appointment on a future agenda.

Later on Thursday, the Wood County Building Commission held the final public hearing on the plan to refinance bonds on the Justice Center, which houses Wood County Magistrate Court and the sheriff’s department.

Couch said Greg Isaacs, with project underwriter Crews & Associates, projected a savings of $100,000 a year by refinancing at a lower rate.