Subscribe Today

Flaw discovered in Marlinton water plant design

Plant Manager Dale McKenney in the Marlinton Water Plant. Engineers have advised the Town Council to upgrade the aging plant or face the possibility of a total malfunction.
Plant Manager Dale McKenney in the Marlinton Water Plant. Engineers have advised the Town Council to upgrade the aging plant or face the possibility of a total malfunction.

Marlinton Council held a special meeting on Monday evening to act on the second reading of a bond ordinance, which will allow the town to borrow up to $405,000 for design work on upgrades to the municipal water plant.

Prior to acting on the bond ordinance, Council discussed a letter received from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau for Public Health (BPH). The letter, signed by Infrastructure and Capacity Development Manager Robert W. DeCrease, said the BPH had discovered a flaw in the design for an upgraded water plant.

“Our office discovered a significant design oversight in the review of the proposed improvements,” the letter reads. “[State regulations] require: All treatment processes with only one unit shall be capable of meeting the projected maximum daily demand in eight hours of operation or less to provide ‘down time’ for repairs and maintenance. The Town of Marlinton’s water treatment plant currently operates approximately fourteen hours per day and has only one clarifier. This is a significant design deficiency and must be addressed.”

The design was prepared and submitted to state agencies by Dunn Engineers, Inc., Marlinton’s contract engineer. The BPH letter stated that, although BPH had not discovered the flaw during an earlier review, it would not issue a construction permit for the project with the design flaw.

Recorder Robin Mutscheller noted that a state financial review of the project plan had shown higher than normal engineering costs.

“I had a concern because they said that the engineering costs were out-of-line for what was customary,” she said. “Now we have a significant design oversight. Do we have any confidence in our engineering firm?”

“As much as we have in any that we’ve had,” replied Mayor Joe Smith. “It was an oversight, but it was also overlooked by the IJDC [Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council] and Small Cities Block Grant because they approved the design. I was at the meeting when they approved it in Charleston. They didn’t catch the number of hours that we pump, normally, which is more than eight hours a day.”

Smith said Dunn engineer Fred Hypes had informed him that the design would be updated with no delay to the project. According to the mayor, Hypes had consulted with the BPH regarding the matter.

“How much will that cost extra?” asked Councilperson Louise Barnisky.

“I’m sure it will but I’m not sure how much it will,” replied the mayor. “It’s not a big tank or anything like that. I’m going to say it’s maybe a 200 gallon tank, a fairly small tank.”

Smith asked for a vote on the bond ordinance and initially received no response.

“People, if you don’t pass this, we’re dead in the water,” he said.

“I’m going to vote for it,” said Councilmember Sue Helton. “I agree with Robin that it is a significant oversight. I feel sure there’s a contingency built in there to cover something like this.”

Council asked Smith to receive a written assurance from Dunn Engineers that the oversight would not delay the project. Smith said he would provide written assurances from Dunn Engineers and the BPH at Council’s next meeting on January 5. Council voted 3-1 to approve the bond ordinance. Mutscheller voted in opposition. Councilmembers David Zorn and Norris Long were not present.

Council will conduct a public hearing on the bond ordinance and consider the third and final reading of the ordinance during its January 5 meeting.

In other business, Council considered appointments to the Town Building Commission, which has been inactive for several years.

For the first time, Council had several names of persons interested in serving on the Building Commission. After reviewing the list of applicants, Council appointed Ernie Shaw, Mark Strauss, Bill McMann, Dottie Kellison and Roger Trusler to the Commission. Trusler resigned from the Housing Authority to accept the appointment.

The 2003 town ordinance, which formed the Building Commission, specified its single purpose, “to direct and oversee the creation of a community center in Marlinton.” The Building Commission obtained and cleared the lot adjacent to the Pocahontas County Opera House, but the community center was built at another location. The Building Commission became inactive as its members’ terms expired, but it remained the owner of the downtown lot.

Council initially planned to re-activate the Commission for the sole purpose of disposing of the mostly vacant lot, after which the Commission would be disbanded. However, during Monday evening’s meeting, Council discussed the possibility of giving the reactivated Commission additional authority and duties. Council agreed to wait until the Building Commission had met, and then seek its input into expanded authority and duties.

The next regular Marlinton Council meeting is scheduled on January 5 at 7 p.m.

more recommended stories