Lubeck PSD tells county commission about costs

Lubeck Public Service District board member David Lawson, Lubeck PSD General Manager Rocky McConnell and Lubeck PSD Board Chairman Jerry Martin give an update Monday to the Wood County Commission since a rate increase was approved earlier this year. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — Although they can plan for potential problems, sometimes challenges appear suddenly that public service districts have to deal with immediately to maintain services.

Officials with Lubeck Public Service District gave the Wood County Commission an update Monday on what is happening within the district since the county approved a sewer rate increase earlier this year.

In January, the commission approved a 10 percent rate increase for sewer service for customers of the Lubeck PSD, down from the 14.8 percent the PSD originally sought. The increase was expected to raise $147,300 in the first year.

Lubeck PSD General Manager Rocky McConnell told commissioners about the need the district had to replace a pump that recently crashed. When the district originally replaced the pump in 2003, it cost $11,798.

It now costs $21,730.

”In 15 years, the cost has almost doubled,” McConnell said.

The district has four such pumps in operation at the plant.

As they were removing that one, another pump failed. As the second pump was examined, it was determined that pump was a total loss.

The replacement cost for that pump is $23,190.

”That is two pumps out of our four that went kaput just back to back,” McConnell said.

With the rains over the weekend, Lubeck PSD personnel had to spend a lot of time working at west pump station, which contain three sewer pumps — one 60 hp and two 88 hp.

”We don’t have a spare 88 hp motor because they are so expensive,” McConnell said.

Officials wanted to illustrate some of the expenditures the district has been faced with, including catastrophic pump failures which cannot be anticipated.

”Just as soon as we start building up some money from the rate increases you gentlemen provided for us, a couple huge failures hit at once,” McConnell said.

Part of the need for an increase was to help 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.

Due to the failures, whatever money was built up is now going to go toward these repairs, Lubeck PSD Board Chairman Jerry Martin said.

”We want to make you all aware,” he told commissioners.

The county commissions are now responsible for setting rates for certain PSDs in the state. There are nine such districts in the state and Wood County has two with the other being Claywood Park. There has been talk at the state about the county commissions taking on more PSDs to be responsible for setting rates.

”We wanted to let you know we might have an issue where we will have to come back and knock on your door for something else in the future,” Martin said.

Lubeck PSD officials said they are still paying the state Public Service Commission $10,000 in yearly fees.

”Why would you still be paying them that?” Commissioner Robert Tebay asked since the county commission is setting rates.

McConnell said the Public Service Commission still sets the rules and regulations they have to follow. They still receive customer complaints and can compel the PSD to act.

”We have to deal with that,” McConnell said.

The PSD officials and county commissioners agreed that some of that money should be redirected to the county.

”I think Wood County should get part of that money,” Martin said. ”You have the responsibility of taking care of this now.”

As there is talk more PSDs rate setting could fall under the jurisdiction of the county, something needs to be done so the counties can better handle it, Commission President Blair Couch said.

”We see that as a problem unless there is money for us to hire accountants to look into these issues,” he said.