While Benwood officials say a $3.5 million storm sewer separation project will happen in the city in 2014, they believe the city's finances are "solid" and don't expect water and sewer rates to raise for customers as a result.
The last quarter of 2013 saw Benwood take in over $300,000 in business and occupation taxes - up about $80,000 over the same time period for 2012, according to Police Chief Frank Longwell.
"The last quarter was a record-setter, and that means industry here is doing well," Longwell said.
Photo by Joselyn King
A faux-brick facade was applied to the front of the Benwood City Building this fall.
The city plans to apply for grants to do the storm sewer separation work being mandated by the state of West Virginia, and to finance any remainder through no-interest loans, he continued.
"We hope not to have raise water or sewer rates," he said. "Our finances are pretty solid."
Other local communities have been forced to pass the cost of storm sewer separation projects on to residents. Water customers living within Wheeling city limits already have absorbed a 53.1-percent sewer rate increase to pay for the new treatment plant in Wheeling, while Bethlehem is proposing a 45-percent increase for its residents.
Benwood has its own water plant, but sewage there is piped to Wheeling's sewer plant, according to Longwell.
He said separating the storm water from the sewer lines should decrease the bill Benwood pays Wheeling for the service.
Longwell said Benwood will continue to pursue more industry for the city in 2014 as there are 27 acres in the Benwood Industrial Park still available for use.
"With Murray Energy buying the Shoemaker Mine, we can expect major expansions as far as the prep plant," he said. "There's also a $1 million renovation going on at A&B Kia, and the IMI FABI talc plant is planning a multi-million dollar expansion."
Also, Transload Solutions is planning to lay 5,000 feet of additional railroad tracks in the upcoming months, according to Longwell.
"Benwood will have a lot of things happening in the upcoming year," he said. "We are also going to continue to pursue getting the Bellaire Bridge down."
The Benwood City Building, meanwhile, received a new look this year as a faux-brick facade was applied to its front side. Work to put the new facade on the other three sides of the building will resume this spring, said Mayor Ed Kuca."I'm so happy with the front, I can't wait until the whole building is completed," he said.
Kuca added he was disappointed Benwood lost its Kroger store in 2013.
The city will continue to seek out a new grocer for Benwood next year, he said.