Mayor’s Update on Route 33 West Utility Agreement
December 12, 2019
Mayor’s Statement at the Combined meeting of the Water & Sanitary Boards held Thursday
Good afternoon, & welcome to this afternoon’s special joint meeting of Buckhannon’s Water Board & Sanitary Board. To be clear, today, this being the second Thursday of the month, is the time for our Water Board to conduct its regular meeting. The Water Board’s regular December meeting will ensue following this combined special meeting with our City’s Sanitary Board to discuss Route 33 West utilities. The only topic to be considered during this combined meeting of our Water & Sanitary Boards is the Route 33 West utilities’ matter that has dominated so much of our City’s officials’ time during the past three months. As everyone knows by now, our City’s long held utility territory, particularly for sanitary sewer, has been the subject of much debate & threat of removal since September.
For the past several years now, our City officials have investigated ways to realize water & sanitary sewer utility expansion along U.S. Route 33 West, seeking to collaborate with developers along Corridor H to realize a way forward without the project unduly impacting our already extensive utility operations, or requiring our existing customers to bear the financial burden of utility expansion outside of our corporate limits. The territory in question has been Buckhannon’s exclusive utility territory since 1996, or nearly 24 years now.
About two weeks ago, by letter dated November 21, 2019, & following many meetings & discussions with developers along Route 33 West, but particularly with J.F. Allen representatives, the City received a proposal whereby our Water & Sanitary Sewer Boards would contribute about $290,000 toward owner development of the water & sewer utilities. This contribution would have included cost of labor along with material expenditures. Philosophically, City officials were challenged to accept a concept whereby our utility boards would be paying property owners for their labor to develop utilities on their own properties despite the utility lines ultimately being dedicated to the City’s respective Boards. So- our City countered with a proposal whereby the City would collaborate in the acquisition of materials toward materials only for the project- with each of the Water Board & Sanitary Board contributing $100,000 toward realization of water & sewer service on the south side of U.S. Route 33 West. Additionally, our City has tentatively agreed subject to both Boards’ approvals, to contribute all administrative costs of engineering & design, inspection, permitting, & waiver of certain tap fees. The total value being contributed by the City’s counter proposal would be about $276,000+.
We understand that the City’s counter proposal has now in principle been accepted by J.F. Allen. We are awaiting their formal execution of a memorandum of understanding prepared by City officials, allowing us to move the utilities project forward. The purpose of today’s special combined meeting of two of our Utility Boards, is to share the same information with both boards, & to solicit formal approval to move this project forward with an anticipated construction start-up date of March 1, 2020, & completion by Fall of 2020. Today’s discussion concerns only the south side utilities along 33 West, although I hasten to add that we believe we are also very close to resolution of sewer service on the north side of 33 West that similarly would permit us to commence that project in March of 2020 as well.
Before I turn the presentation over to our excellent team members who will share further details about these exciting projects, I want to especially thank Jerry Arnold, Amby Jenkins, Tom O’Neill, Sam Ludlow, Jay Hollen, Buck Samples, Kelly Arnold, & Mark Sankoff with Potesta Engineering, our Sanitary Board’s consulting engineers, for their collective, tireless efforts to get us to where we are today. We have collectively expended a considerable amount of time & energy to develop this important project for the benefit of our community. I now ask our public works director, Jerry Arnold, to further our conversation, & then we’ll hear from other City representatives about the proposed project. Ultimately, I will solicit motions from both Boards to endorse the City’s proposed MOU that will upon the developers’ formal acceptance, allow us to move this utlities’ project forward immediately.