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Parkersburg City Council to take up water rate hike

PARKERSBURG — The first reading of an ordinance raising Parkersburg Utility Board water rates by 7 percent for the average customer is on Parkersburg City Council’s agenda Tuesday.

The original proposed 9 percent hike couldn’t get the minimum three sponsors to be placed on council’s Oct. 12 agenda, so PUB Manager Eric Bennett suggested a 7 percent increase that will provide the funding necessary for a $17 million planned water system improvement project. The lower rate will mean less money available for routine capital expenditures, he said.

The increase was originally predicted to be in the double digits before council voted in July to allocate $7 million in American Rescue Plan funds to the project. The planned work includes replacing 56,400 feet of large- and small-diameter water mains, construction of a water storage tank and booster station to provide higher water pressure and flow for south Parkersburg, rehabilitation of the backwash basin at the treatment plant and the south reservoir and improvements at the East Street valve station.

The average residential customer using 3,100 gallons of water a month pays $27.36 under the existing rates. With the new proposal, that would increase to $28.02 as of July 1, 2022; $28.67 the next year; and $29.29 the final year. That’s a savings of 34 cents a month versus the original proposal in the first year, 35 cents in the second and 54 cents in the third.

The agenda includes the first readings of two related ordinances, one authorizing the improvements and the other allowing the city to issue as much as $11 million in bonds to fund the project. Bennett said the $11 million figure was used “just in case there’s a bid overrun,” but it would not result in the rates going higher.

Also on the agenda is a resolution moving $150,000 from the proposed St. Marys/Dudley Avenue streetscape enhancement to the already underway Market Street enhancement.

Notes on the resolution say the former project to replace deteriorated sidewalks, curb cuts and other features will cost millions of dollars to complete, but the city has secured a $100,000 West Virginia Transportation Alternative Program grant, with a $20,000 local match, to fund plans for the work.

The $150,000 will be combined with nearly $250,000 left over from the first phase of the Market Street project, which replaced sidewalks from Ninth to 10th Street and added features like landscaping elements and bump-outs to encourage slower vehicle speeds. That money “would basically fund phase 2 of the Market Street project,” Parkersburg Development Director Ryan Barber said.

Another resolution would change the rules for examinations for prospective Fire Department employees so that passing candidates would get an additional 5 points added to their score if they were certified as EMTs or higher.

Fire Chief Jason Matthews said all firefighters are required to get their emergency medical technician certification once they are hired. That’s a process that involves 160 hours of work spread over five or six months.

“If we could get people to come on that already had it, it would help with the scheduling,” Matthews said.

The bonus points are only applied if the individual gets a passing score, so it could elevate them in comparison to other candidates but will not give someone who might have failed a passing score, he said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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