CALHOUN'S $5.2 MILLION WATER PROJECT UNSTUCK - Commissioners Struggle To Balance Budget

(04/20/2009)

Calhoun's $5.2 million water project that stretches 21-miles from the Russett area to Chloe, is moving ahead, according to Danielle Stevens, an administrative assistant in the County Clerk's office.

Mt. Zion PSD board members told the Calhoun Commission in February that the project was stuck over not obtaining the number of right-of-ways to put the project out for bid.

Stevens, with the help of PSD appointed Norma Collins, has now obtained 80% of the 150 right-of-ways, which now allows the project to be bid.

Tim Meeks, with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, told the commission last week, "Hopefully, the bids will be advertised in the next three months."

The commission had received numerous complaints that the Mt. Zion PSD project was stuck over the obtaining right-of-ways.

Members of the Mt. Zion PSD Board, the board's secretary-treasurer Wilma Mace, project engineer Jim Hildreth and several community members attended the meeting in February regarding the project.

Commissioner Chip Westfall said "This is too important a project for Calhoun not to get it moving."

Commissioner Kevin Helmick said the commission helped initiate the project and will pass-down the funding, "It is now up to to the PSD," expressing concern that the longer the project languishes the more inflation will drain the funds.

The long-time project has already been granted an extra $1,250,000 because of inflationary costs.

Commission president Bob Weaver told PSD members, "We're here to help you," while expressing concern that an earlier offer to the board's secretary-treasurer Wilma Mace for the county to provide a worker was not accepted.

Commissioners and the PSD, at the conclusion of the February meeting, agreed to accept the county's offer to provide a county employee and fund another part-time person designated by the PSD to wrap up the right-of-ways in the next few weeks.

Several community members volunteered to provide transportation for the workers.

PSD board secretary-treasurer Mace told commissioners that the board's attorney Tom Whittier of Spencer was responsible for a slow down in the right-of-way process last year, although about 50 of the the right-of-way forms had been on her desk since November.

Board president Sharon Postalwait said "We thought they had been done."

Mace said she had been experiencing some serious health problems, causing part of the delay.

The project will help a large area of the county have a consistent water supply, increase the property values for residents, provide better fire protection and lower insurance rates.

In 2007, PSD secretary Wilma Mace said 150 customers had signed, saying that was the minimum number to secure funding. The original number was about 183. PSD members went door-to-door to get the needed signatures.

In 2007, State Director Robert M. Steptoe, III, announced that Rural Development approved a loan of $850,000 and a grant of $450,000 for the project, after costs significantly escalated, adding $1,250,000 to the $4 million project.

The commission approved a resolution supporting the upgrade of US 33 near Spencer, a long time project that has been removed from the list of highway projects to be completed in WV.

Commissioners expressed concerns about the rising cost of health insurance through PEIA, the county is now being asked for an additional $32,000 to cover premiums for county employees.

The commission, in preparing the 2009-10 budget, was faced with several unfunded mandates and a loss of income from state sources.

Commissioners expressed appreciation to the county's elected officials for reducing their budget by 2% to help the county have a balanced budget.

The commission is re-applying for a grant to install an elevator in the courthouse and a court security grant.

Commissioners denied a $24,409 request from the Mt. Zion PSD, advising the PSD the commission has no money for local projects, many of which have need.

Calhoun Sheriff Allen Parson's request to hire Jeff Starcher as a deputy sheriff was approved.

The commission is working on combining the 911-OES-Flood Plain coordinator positions into one job.

A special meeting to set the levy rates is scheduled for Tuesday.

A meeting of the Handbook Committee is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m.

The regular May commission meeting is set for May 11 at 2 p.m.


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