At the Durbin Town Council meeting January 12, Region 4 executive director John Tuggle gave an update on the town’s proposed sewer project.
The project was developed several years ago to replace and upgrade the entire sewer system in the town and Region 4 has been helping with plans and pursing funding for the project.
“Based on the preliminary report, your combined system is overloaded,” Tuggle said. “You have an old system like many towns. A project was developed many years ago and it currently is estimated at two point six million dollars based on your engineer putting together the project.”
Tuggle said most projects of this nature received no more than 60 percent grant funding from federal and state entities. On behalf of Durbin, Region 4 applied for grants offered by United States Department of Agriculture, the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council and the Corps of Engineers.
“With the amount of money that is needed, you can’t just get all grants anymore,” Tuggle said. “What that means is out of that two point six million dollars, you’re already borrowing a million dollars. That’s the current funding package – a million dollar grant from USDA RUS [Rural Utilities Service] and then from the IJCD is $623,000.”
To match the grant funds, the town will raise sewer and water rates. If the town does borrow $1 million, the rates will increase as follows: For 3,400 gallons a month, the bill will be $52, and for 2,000 gallons, it will be $35.
Tuggle said the project is promising, but there are a lot of towns in West Virginia trying to make the same upgrades, creating competition for Durbin.
“It’s very competitive,” he said. “There are areas in the state that are in just as dire straits as Durbin – especially since the coal downturn. Many of the small communities in southern West Virginia particularly are feeling a lot of pain.”
With the rate increase, Durbin is showing its dedication to the project, and Tuggle said that could help sway the granter’s decisions.
“I think it’s a reasonable request,” he said. “Even more than sixty percent would be reasonable to me because your rates are going up so much.”
Council thanked Tuggle for his update.
New treasurer getting things back on track
Treasurer Jerri Sipe has only been in her position for a month, yet she is getting the financial statement straightened out and organized.
Sipe said she compared the bank statements to Quickbooks and there is a discrepancy, but she is working out the kinks and solving the issues.
“What has happened – I feel, by going in and investigating – is whoever set up Quickbooks, they set up ‘Town of Durbin,’ ‘Town of Durbin,’ ‘Town of Durbin,’ [as the names for the separate accounts],” she said. “So bills and deposits have been going to all three of those accounts.”
In other words, the general fund, the sewer fund and Durbin Days Heritage Festival fund have the same name in the computer, so when a check for the sewer fund is deposited, the amount is added to all three accounts. This discrepancy led to the town showing it has more money than it really does.
Sipe added that the town is paying for five licenses for Quickbooks when it only needs one, and the program has not been updated in several years.
In her opinion, Sipe said it would be best to start from scratch for 2016 in a separate document until she could get the previous statements reconciled.
“I think our best bet would be to clean all the files out, get them to the back and then try to sort them out by years,” she said.
Despite the issues, councilmember Mark Smith said he was pleased with Sipe’s work and thanked her for taking on such a difficult task.
“I’ve been here ten months and that’s the most comprehensive financial report I’ve heard,” he said. “It didn’t get messed up overnight, so it’s not going to get fixed overnight.”
Council approved to allow Sipe to start a new statement beginning February 1.
In other news:
• Durbin librarian Nancy Egan gave an update to council on usage of Durbin Community Library. She said there are several programs offered to the community and many patrons have been taking advantage of library services.
The library is open 20 hours a week and has between 90 and 140 visitors a month. Egan added that the library is still raising funds to complete the kitchen. A donor has provided a refrigerator and sinks, and Huttonsville Correctional Center is interested in crafting cupboards for the facility.
Durbin Town Council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Durbin Town Hall.