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Weston sewer rate hike passes first reading

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

WESTON -- After spending a couple of weeks gathering more information about a proposed sewer upgrade and expansion, City Council members Monday night passed the first reading of a proposed 45 percent sewer rate increase intended to help pay for the project.

The proposed upgrade -- an $11 million project which includes a new sewage treatment plant and the extension of sewer lines along U.S. Route 33 past Wal-Mart -- is essential for any further development at the intersection of Route 33 and Interstate 79, said Robin Poling, executive director of the Lewis County Economic Development Authority.

Council had considered the proposed rate increase before, said City Clerk Becky Swisher, but voted it down after the second reading in May.

"They just needed more information to decide what they were voting on," she said. "They wanted to find out what the project is all about."

Poling said there was some opposition to the rate increase at first because of its magnitude.

"I think now that everyone realizes this is something that needs to be done, they're for it," she said. Poling noted that Weston customers have not had an increase in rates for about 16 years.

Adding incentive to a yes vote, Weston is under a state Department of Environmental Protection order to fix its existing plant, which sends its waste overflow into the West Fork River during rainstorms and has had mechanical failures in the past, according to Ken Moran, vice president of Thrasher Engineering, Inc. Thrasher was hired by the city to do feasibility studies and design work on the project, which has been in the works for two years.

While the extensions and upgrades will include some areas outside of Weston city limits, Poling said customers in those areas would pay higher rates than customers within city limits.

"If they decide to be annexed at some point, the surcharge will be dropped, and they'll enjoy all the privileges of being in the city," she said.

A second reading and public hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m. June 21.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446.

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