Marlinton submits projected utilities budget

Mayor Joe Smith says Marlinton's water plant is in dire need of major upgrades. In the photo, Marlinton water supervisor Dale McKinney in the plant.
Mayor Joe Smith says Marlinton’s water plant is in dire need of major upgrades. In the photo, Marlinton water supervisor Dale McKinney in the plant.

Higher rates are on the horizon for Marlinton water and sewer customers.

Accountant Jeff Feanster prepared a projected water and sewer budget for the town that portends higher rates for the town’s utility customers. Marlinton Town Council must submit a fiscal year 2014-2015 utilities budget to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) no later than June 30.

During a special meeting Monday evening, Council considered approving Feanster’s proposed budget for submission to the USDA. The projected budget includes a five percent increase in town sewage rates and an 18 percent increase in the town’s water rates.

State law requires public utilities to maintain a budget surplus. If Council ultimately adopts the new budget, the town’s water rate will increase from $12.93 per 1,000 gallons to $15.26. The sewage rate will increase from $8.59 to $9.02.

Mayor Joe Smith said the town’s water utility lost $99,000 last year.

“We’re taking a beating in water and sewage again,” he said.

Smith said overtime pay was a major reason for last year’s deficit, but that he had greatly reduced overtime.

“I have all but eliminated overtime at the water plant,” he said.

Recorder Robin Mutscheller noted that the budget and rate increases did not reflect additional costs that the town will incur if it receives a Small Cities Block Grant (SCBG) and accepts an ancillary loan package for upgrade of the municipal water plant.

“That does not include, as I understand it, the proposed grant application that would require additional expense,” she said.

“Right, but that is 2-3 years down the road,” said Smith. “That would not have to go into effect until the project is completed.”

Council applied for a $1.5 million SCBG in May. An additional $2.8 million in low-interest loans, needed to complete water plant upgrades, has been approved by the state if the SCBG money is received.

Council voted 6-0 to approve the proposed utilities budget for submission to the USDA, but did not formally adopt the budget for the town.

The mayor informed Council that no bids had been received for replacement of the Municipal Building roof. Smith said Chuck Preusch, with Elkins firm Reliable Roofing, told him there was insufficient information about what was underneath the existing roof to provide a quote. According to the mayor, the possible presence of asbestos is of particular concern.

Smith said Preusch offered to remove a portion of the roof and conduct an inspection, at no cost to the town. Council approved the inspection and also authorized the mayor to hire a testing company to check for asbestos.

Council voted 5-1 to hire Kenny Samples as a part-time employee to paint 154 fire hydrants and install more than 200 street signs. The work is to be completed no later than September 30 and Samples will be paid $10.25 per hour. Mutscheller voted in opposition, stating that the town should try to acquire labor from the Day Report Center and Drug Court.

Councilmember Louise Barnisky said she had received complaints about the upkeep of the Greenbrier River Trail between Eighth and Ninth streets in town. Smith said there was a lease agreement in effect in the past, under which the town helped to maintain the area. The mayor said he would discuss the matter with Greenbrier River Trail State Park Superintendent Jody Spencer, to see if a formal agreement is still necessary.

Marlinton Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 7, at 7 p.m.

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