(03/17/2012)
By David Hedges
Publisher, The Times Record

Residents of southern Calhoun County who have been waiting for years can almost taste the water.

Mt. Zion Public Service District was awarded $5.2 million for a 21- mile water line extension to serve customers on W.Va. 16 south of Arnoldsburg and U.S. 33/119 to Millstone and Sand Ridge.

After years of delays, construction finally got underway in August 2010 and was supposed to have been complete last July.

Construction on the W.Va. 16 section was finished last month.

At Tuesday's PSD meeting at the Arnoldsburg Community Building, project engineer Jim Hildreth said the rest of the extension, on U.S. 33/119, should be finished next week.

"They are on track to have water service available by March 20," Hildreth told PSD members Sharon Postal wait, Roscoe "Cokey" Gainer II and Shirley Mace.

To tie in the new system, Hildreth said water service to some existing customers would be shut off this Saturday starting at 8 a.m. Hildreth was not certain how long customers would be without water.

"We hope to get it done in four hours, but it could take all day," he said.

The customers to be affected are on U.S. 33 from Millstone Hill, south to Arnoldsburg.

A sign-up day for new customers was set for Friday, March 23.

Some residents of the area asked for additional extensions to include their property.

Clayton Taylor asked if there was $400,000 in surplus funds that could be used to add more customers.

"This district has some funds, but there are a lot of needs," Hildreth said.

At a previous meeting, the PSD set a list of priorities for extensions. Some of the project surplus also was set aside to improve the current system.

"We need to make repairs to the existing system," Gainer, the PSD's vice chairman, said about additional extensions. "We're going to do all we can with what we've got."

Members also reviewed their current financial status, which includes several bills the cash-strapped PSD has not been able to pay. Those were reviewed individually during the two-hour, 40-minute meeting.

"It's getting better," administrative assistant Norma Collins said. "I can see the time when they are all paid, and you all are paid, too."

PSD members have not been paid in over two years.

Gainer said the PSD may get some additional cash in the form of liquidated damages from the contractor, Bruce Allen Pipeline, because the company failed to get the project done by the contracted date.

"We may get some help from Bruce Allen," Gainer said. "He's going to owe us some money."

Officials with the USDA, which provided the funds for the project, said earlier if the PSD can prove it lost revenue from new, water customers because the project was not finished on time, the PSD could be awarded damages.

Also at Monday's meeting, the PSD accepted the resignation of water operator in training Grant Clark after he refused to sign a job description. Clark said the description was too vague and included a provision that, if he failed to complete any of the duties, it would be considered a resignation. Clark also complained that his paycheck was late, but Collins said he had not submitted time sheets soon enough.

When Clark complained about a lack of communication, Gainer responded, "It sounds like you need to find something else to do."

Clark ended up quitting and walked out of the meeting.

He is the third person to resign at a meeting in the past six months. The others were billing clerks.

Near the conclusion of the meeting, PSD members agreed to offer the part-time position to Jeremy Westfall at a rate of $13 per hour, as long as he is willing to sign the job description.

Westfall was not at the meeting but members said they hoped he was willing to perform the duties, at least on a temporary basis.

Some customers also showed up at the meeting to complain about billing errors. Collins said the errors had been corrected.

The next PSD meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, April 9, with a progress meeting on the water project set for for 10 a.m. Monday, March 26. Both meetings will be at the community building.


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