Lubeck PSD gets smaller sewer rate increase

Wood County Commission approves 10 percent hike

Photo by Brett Dunlap Lubeck Public Service District board member David Lawson, Lubeck PSD General Manager Rocky McConnell and Lubeck PSD Board Chairman Jerry Martin appeared before the Wood County Commission on Thursday. In a 2-1 vote, the commission approved a 10 percent rate increase for sewer service for customers of the Lubeck PSD.

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission approved a rate increase for Lubeck sewer service, but it was not for the amount the district originally asked for.

In a 2-1 vote on Thursday, the commission approved a 10 percent rate increase for sewer service for customers of the Lubeck Public Service District. Commissioners Blair Couch and Jimmy Colombo voted in favor of the 10 percent increase while Commissioner Robert Tebay voted against it.

Tebay proposed an increase of four percent a year over five years, keeping the funds in a separate account to fund repairs and more, but not for salary and benefits costs. The other commissioners did not think that amount would accomplish what the district needed done.

The Lubeck PSD originally sought a 14.8 percent sewer rate increase. Officials from the PSD said the rate increase was needed to cover increasing costs to operate the system and to meet the mandate under Senate Bill 234, requiring the district to maintain a reserve of 12.5 percent of its budget to cover emergency repairs or equipment replacements.

The increase would also cover expenses of additional hires and getting a new truck and generators through loans for projects, officials said.

The adjusted rate increase will now raise $147,300 in the first year.

“That will help them cover the requests they have,” Couch said. “It doesn’t cover all of them by any stretch.”

It will get the PSD on its way to cover what it needs, Couch said. It will take longer for the district to build up the fund for the Senate Bill 234 mandate.

The rate will help Lubeck cover its bond covenant.

“It is important they start building that and showing the ability to do so,” Couch said.

“They (district) are going to have to go back and do what we do with every budget, go back, reduce the budget and find ways to save,” Couch said.

Colombo said he had lived in the Lubeck area for around a decade years ago.

“It is a very special area,” he said. “I have seen what happened since I left. It is bigger and better.”

It is a good area for people looking for a good home, said Colombo. Industry is expanding in the area with Hino Motors moving into the former Coldwater Creek facility and work is being done at the former SABIC site.

“I don’t think we should put the increase at 14 percent, but we need to put it somewhere where they can have some latitude to be able to do some things or they will be right back here next year,” Colombo said.

During public hearings, district officials said they cover 100 percent of health insurance costs for their employees.

Colombo said the district is going to have to look at that practice.

“You are going to reassess your hospitalization plan,” he said. “There has to be some kind of shared responsibility there.”

District officials said salaries can remain at a certain level, because those benefits are in place. They have been able to retain people for years and have not had to train too many new people coming in, officials said.

“We have no turnover,” Lubeck board member David Lawson said.

Board Chairman Jerry Martin said the district is managing by crisis where things are handled when they have to be.

Part of the reason for the rate increase was to build up a fund to be able to handle emergencies when they come up, Martin said.

“When we don’t have the money, we have to go and borrow from the bank,” Martin said.

The rate increase approved will reduce the district’s ability to fund the Senate Bill 234 mandate and to make planned repairs, Martin said.

“It will just take us longer to do what we need to do,” Martin said. “Hopefully, we won’t have too much deterioration. This money will help us and it is better than nothing. It is workable, but it is difficult.”