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Water Board OKs nearly $6M budget

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

Members of the Clarksburg Water Board passed a budget for next fiscal year by a 2-1 vote Tuesday.

Newly elected Board President Pat D'Anselmi and Russell J. Lopez voted for the budget of almost $6 million, while Charles O. Thayer III voted against it. Thayer said Tuesday he voted against the budget because he believes a $150,000 allocation for line repairs is too small. Thayer added he thinks additional money could have come from savings in other areas.

"In February we had an engineering consulting firm that operates water treatment plants and sanitary treatment facilities offer to do a study and identify ways we could save money," Thayer said.

"They said it would be possible to save $400,000 a year. Had we had the study done, we would be in a position to know potential savings."

D'Anselmi said she wants the board to name a general manager before voting for a study. D'Anselmi also said she is skeptical the board could save a large amount of money without layoffs or benefit cuts for retired employees.

"The only way I could see it (saving $400,000 a year) is to cut salaries, benefits and employees," D'Anselmi said. "I believe we should do what we can to correct things from now on, but we can't take things away from people who are retired and depend on the benefits they worked all their lives for."

D'Anselmi also said the $150,000 allocation is for line repairs that would be completed by water board employees.

"Repairs for big lines have to be subcontracted out. If we have to contract out some of the big line, I don't know where we'll get the money," she said.

Lopez said May 15 is the deadline for submitting the budget to the PSC and he thinks it was too late to attempt to make major changes.

"I think it's a reasonable budget under the circumstances. No budget is perfect but I think we can make improvements when we have something to go on from the PSC," Lopez said.

The budget was based upon Administrative Law Judge Keith A. George's recommendation that the water board be granted a 6 percent rate increase followed by a 4 percent increase when a replacement for the Chestnut Street Water Tank is installed.

The board had initially requested an average 15.9 percent increase, which was protested by a group of municipalities and public service districts who filed a protest with the state Public Service Commission. A final ruling on the rate case is due May 13.

Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.

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