McMechen Water Woes Run Deep

McMECHEN – City water customers could see their bills double over the next few years as McMechen searches for a means to pay for an estimated $3.67 million worth of repairs and renovations at the aging water plant.

Mayor Michael Gracik said under the “worst-case scenario,” residents would see an average monthly bill for 4,000 gallons of water jump from $17.36 to $36 in increments over the next few years. However, he said, the bills would likely not be that high for residents because some of the cost would be passed on to Marshall County Public Service District No. 1, which purchases water from the city.

During the City Council meeting Thursday, Gracik discussed the proposed water plant project with council members. He hopes to proceed with it sooner rather than later.

“If we stall long enough and something goes wrong, what are we going to do?” he asked members.

However, Councilwoman Nancy Boreman has a problem with the estimated cost, noting “these townspeople are going to flip.”

“Trust me – I know the plant is horrible,” she said. “I know it needs upgrades.”

Boreman and Councilman Gregg Wolfe said they would like to see other cost estimates to compare their options. They also wonder if the project could be completed in steps, rather than all at once, to lessen the impact on ratepayers.

“We can’t vote on something in the blind. I want to see other bids,” Wolfe said.

“That plant has been dilapidated for the past 15-20 years,” Boreman added. “I want our residents to have good water. I don’t want them to have to scoop it out of the river and boil it.”

“I just want to protect the people’s water supply,” Gracik responded.

Following more debate, Gracik and council eventually decided to seek more information on the project before voting on it.

Gracik said council previously tried to pass a 24-percent water rate increase that members hoped would help operations, but he said the Public Service Commission of West Virginia recently overruled this measure.

Near the end of the meeting, Police Chief David Robinson warned everyone to “watch out for” the Williams Energy de-ethanizer “superload.” The 41-yard long, 510,000-pound mammoth machine is scheduled to travel south at an average of 3 mph on W.Va. 2 from the CSX rail yard in Benwood, starting between 8-9 a.m. Sunday.

“Watch out for it from 8-10 a.m., at least,” he said.

McMechen City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss the fiscal 2015 budget at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the City Building, 47 Ninth St.

The next regular council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. April 3 in the same location.