By David Hedges, Publisher
The Roane County Reporter

Mt. Zion Public Service District members have decisions to make about excess funds from a 21-mile water line extension project. ' Should they use the surplus' to add even more new customers, or to fix up the old system so it can handle the increased demand? ' The current system provides water to 272 customers. Another 2.00 will be added With the extension.

"It doesn't do any good to extend the system if you can't take care of what you've got," PSD vice chairman Roscoe "Cokey" Gainer II said at the PSD's monthly meeting Monday night at the Arnoldsburg , Community Building."

About $550,000 will be left from the $5.2 million water line extension along W.Va. 16 south of Arnoldsburg and U.S. 33/Il9 from Millstone to Sand Ridge, project engineer Jim Hildreth said.

The extension that was supposed to be finished in July is still not complete.

Hildreth said Monday that construction along W.Va. 16 should be complete by Jan. 17, while work along U.S. 33 willnot be done until the end of February.

With the. surplus, seven additional extensions serving one to 14 customers have been proposed.

Residents of Sears Run presented a petition Monday from 12 customers in the area that want water, with the possibility of two more joining.

The PSD also wants to buy equipment including replacement meters and toolsto maintain the current system.

Hildreth estimated costs at $75,000 for meters and $20,000 for tools. The-seven proposed extensions start at just over $30,000.

The proposed extension that would serve the most customers, 14 on Crummies Creek, is the most costly at nearly $400,000.

Hildreth recommended the PSD consider extensions in the Linkweker, Enon and Sears Run areas.

"You probably have enough money to do two of these and part of a third," he said.

"Enon may be the, easiest, construction-wise," Hildreth said, "but I'm not ruling Sears Run out."

Gainer proposed a priority list for the surplus that listed repair of lines at Phillips Run and the PSD office at the top, followed by purchasing new meters and then tools and material for repairs.

At the end of the list were extensions to serve two customers in the Linkweker area, nine in the Enon area and those in the Sears Run area.

PSD members Sharon Postalwait and Shirley Mace approved Gainer's suggestion.

Also during the three-hour meeting, the board heard from their attorney, Tom Whittier, who said the PSD received notice from suppliers who said they had not been paid. for materials provided to the project contractor, Bruce, Allen Inc.

Hildreth said the contract "hold-back" for $146,351.02 would not be released until final inspection.

"It will take that to pay for it," Whittier said.

Hildreth said the contractor's bond would pay the costs, but Whittier had a different opinion.

"We've been put on notice," he said, "If there are people not being paid, we need to find out about it and get them paid."

In other business, Whittier said a request for a water rate increase would be filed with the state Public Service Commission the next day.

Whittier said the 5.8 percent "pass-through" increase was in response to a 5.8 percent rate increase by the town of Grantsville, which supplies the PSD's water.

Whittier also told the PSD that a contract with Dunn Engineering for a proposed sewer system upgrade should not be approved because it was an open-ended contract at an hourly rate, instead of figured on a percentage basis.

He told PSD members that the PSC had levied $500 fines on both he Mt. Zion water and sewer systems because annual reports were late. He said the fine also included $50 for each day past deadline.

In other business the board approved Jimmie Starcher, retired water and sewer operator for the town of Reedy to provide supervision of operator-in-training, Grant Clark.

Clark will have to work 1,000 hours, attend classes and pass tests in order to become certified.

Without a certified operator to oversee his work, Clark said the State Health Dept. could issue a boil-water advisory for Mt. Zion customers at any time.

The board agreed to pay Starcher $100, plus expenses, to sign off on monthly reports.

Billing clerk Britney Jones discussed billing issues and said she sometimes must work over 15 hours a week to meet customer needs.

She said the fact that administrative assistant Norma Collins and her mother, PSD treasurer Shirley Mace, do their work at home makes her job more difficult.

Collins disagreed and said there was no reason for Jones to have to work extra hours.

The exchange grew heated at times before Jones, who began work in October, announced she was giving her two-week notice and left the meeting. She is the second billing clerk to resign in the past year, citing similar problems.

Postalwait said she hoped the problems could be cleared up after PSC officials visit the Mt. Zion PSD office next Monday to go over operating procedures with the staff.

Members also heard about efforts to find water leaks with the help of the W.Va. Rural Water Association.

Andy Collins, a Hildreth engineering employee, said one leak located on Phillips Run "may be the large one we were looking for."

Members agreed to renew their membership in the association at a cost of $180 per year.

On Monday, the PSD also:

Approved the purchase of a copier for the PSD office.

Learned a $500 generator purchased two years ago was missing.

On a motion by Mace, approved the purchase of 400 cellphone minutes for Collins.

The next PSD meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.

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