Sewer Rate Increase Up For Discussion in Wheeling

Proposed increase would pay for future infrastructure work

Photos by Casey Junkins A hole in Main Street in downtown Wheeling marks the spot contractors are continuing to work on the $755,000 sewer separation system.

WHEELING — The Main Street stormwater sewer separation project is an example of work that could take place throughout the city in years to come with about $28 million in planned system upgrades, paid for by rates that may rise by almost 60 percent.

Immediately after the 5:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting of Wheeling City Council, members and City Manager Robert Herron are expected to hold an informal information session about the planned work.

“A lot of these are things that have to be addressed to meet federal and state mandates,” Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said of the planned projects.

In September, the city’s Public Works Committee — consisting of Councilman Brian Wilson, Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday and Councilman Dave Palmer — unanimously voted to recommend a 17-percent sewer rate increase for consideration by the full city council.

Committee members also gave tentative approval to an additional 40-percent rate hike, which Herron said council would not vote to enact until next year. He also said this portion of the increase could ultimately be lower, depending on the interest rate at which the city can sell bonds to pay for the work.

“The public will certainly get the chance to ask questions,” Thalman said. “We’ve not had a sewer (rate) increase in many years. Some of these things just have to happen.”

Much of the work is mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. One of the city’s major issues is that of combined sewer overflows. According to the EPA, a combined sewer overflow contains “untreated or partially treated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris as well as stormwater.”

The list of planned expenditures for the $28 million worth of upgrades includes:

– New siphons and detention basins in various areas of the city, $7.904 million;

– Center Wheeling Wastewater Treatment Plant, $7.7 million;

– Operation and maintenance, $2.675 million;

– Bedillion Lane, $2 million;

– Cleaning and repairs throughout the city, $1.8 million;

– Studies and related project costs, $1.609 million.

– Valley View Avenue, $1.512 million;

– Kruger Street , $1 million;

– GC&P Road, $1 million;

– 22nd Street, $200,000;

– Hil-Dar, $200,000;

– Forest Hills, $200,000; and

– Dimmeydale, $200,000.

The city saw a 53-percent water rate increase to fund construction of the new water distribution plant go into effect in May 2013. At that time, the council led by former Mayor Andy McKenzie approved an increase of 70 percent, but the Public Service Commission of West Virginia ultimately lowered the rate to 53 percent after the Ohio County Public Service District, the town of Triadelphia and the village of Valley Grove filed formal complaints about the rate increase.

Thalman said the Main Street stormwater separation project is needed in part because the old buildings that occupied the site soon to be home to The Health Plan did not have systems that would meet new standards.

“Their gutters drained directly into the sewer,” Thalman said of the former G.C Murphy, Rite Aid and other buildings that previously occupied the 1100 block of Main and Market streets. “When you put a lot of rainwater into the sewer, it can cause an overflow. That’s what we’re not allowed to have.”

During the regular council meeting, members will consider individual ordinances to spend portions of the city’s $1.07 million allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant funding. Mayor Glenn Elliott, Thalman, Scatterday, Palmer, Wilson, along with Councilmen Ken Imer and Ty Thorngate, unanimously approved the full project list earlier this year.