Water Project On Tap To Start

Wheeling City Council is preparing to spend nearly $2.4 million for engineering and design of a new water treatment plant in Warwood in what would be the first significant expense toward replacing a facility built almost 90 years ago.

Council will hear first reading of legislation authorizing that expense during its final regular meeting of 2012, set for 5:30 p.m. today in City Manager Robert Herron’s conference room on the third floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St. Council’s Finance Committee will meet in the same location at 5 p.m.

The $2.37 million for CT Consultants Inc. – a Mentor, Ohio-based firm with an office in Center Wheeling – is included in the estimated $36 million to $37 million cost for the project that city water customers soon will be paying 53.1 percent more to fund.

It is the same firm that did initial design work on the project beginning in 2007.

Herron said if all goes according to plan, the new plant’s construction will begin in the summer and is expected to take about two years.

“We are currently shooting for the project to be out to bid Jan. 15 with a bid opening of March 15,” he said.

Council passed a 70-percent rate increase last year, but the West Virginia Public Service Commission rate lowered that figure to 53.1 percent after a formal protest from some of Wheeling’s water resale customers, including the Ohio County Public Service District, the town of Triadelphia and village of Valley Grove, which cried foul over having to pass that increase on to consumers.

In return, the PSC agreed to allow Wheeling to implement the rate increase as soon as bonds for the project are issued, rather than when construction is finished.

That will allow the city to avoid paying $7 million in additional interest, which had city officials fearing a rate increase of as much as 80 percent would be necessary, according to Herron.

Concerns remain, however, over having enough cash on hand to meet the city’s required level of debt service coverage under the lesser rates, but Herron said the city hopes to be able to solve that problem without another rate increase.