WESTON -- City officials aren't the only ones with hopes pinned on the approval of a 45- percent rate hike needed to begin a major sewage upgrade and expansion.
"It's imperative for economic development to continue," said Robin Poling, executive director of the Lewis County Economic Development Authority.
The proposal passed its first reading before city council on Monday.
Poling said the proposal -- an $11 million project which includes a new sewage treatment plant and the extension of sewer lines along U.S. Rt. 33 past Wal-Mart -- is essential for any further development at the intersection of Rt. 33 and Interstate 79.
Developments already in place are using "package plants," small on-site sewage treatment centers. Poling said such plants send some sewage into the West Fork River. The sewage is now at its legal maximum, she said.
Ken Moran, vice president of Thrasher Engineering, Inc. of Clarksburg, said the city of Weston is under a state Department of Environmental Protection order to fix its plant, which sends its waste overflow into the West Fork River during rainstorms and has had mechanical failures in the past. 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.
Tracey Weber III, attorney for the city Sanitary Board, said the plant is about 50 years old and many lines are original. The proposed project includes the upgrading of lines and the extension of sewer service to the Deanville and Jordanville communities, where the proposed plant would be located, as well.
Because the project is so extensive, Weber said the funds generated from the proposed rate increase would only cover a portion of costs. The city is also seeking grants and loans from a variety of state agencies, including the DEP.
Under the rate hike proposal, Weston customers would be charged an average of 45 percent more:
n $6.84 per 1,000 gallons for up to 5,000 gallons per month.
n $4.99 per 1,000 gallons for the next 20,000 gallons.
n $4.29 per 1,000 gallons for the next 225,000 gallons.
n $3.02 per 1,000 gallons for the next 112,500 gallons.
Homewood, Bendale, Rt. 33, Jordanville and Deanville customers would pay:
n $8.29 per 1,000 gallons for up to 5,000 gallons per month.
n $6.44 per 1,000 gallons for the next 20,000 gallons.
n $5.74 per 1,000 gallons for the next 225,000 gallons.
n $4.47 per 1,000 gallons for the next 112,500 gallons.
Weston Mayor Terry Cogar said there has been little to no opposition to the rate hike so far, but he expects to hear some as news of it filters into the community.
"Any time you raise the price on something you're going to hear about it," Cogar said.
While the proposal unanimously passed its first reading, there are several more steps needed for approval of the rate increase. Cogar said a second reading will occur 6 p.m. May 22 and a third and final reading at 7 p.m. June 5. If state and rate-hike funding are secured, Moran said construction could begin as early as November.
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403.