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Jail site prompts fight for sewage

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

In the wake of a battle between officials from Barbour, Randolph and Tucker counties over where the new Tygart Valley Regional Jail should be located, another fight seems to be shaping up over who will provide sewage service to the jail once it is built.

Barbour County Commissioner Eddie Canterbury, who supports piping waste from the jail to the town of Junior, and Elkins Mayor Jimmy Hammond, who supports using the Elkins treatment plant, were among the officials who earlier this month asked Randolph County commissioners to decide which plant will process the sewage.

But state Regional Jail Authority Executive Director Steve Canterbury and Amy Swann, director of the wastewater division of the state Public Service Commission, say the county commission has no authority in the matter.

According to Swann, any time a project uses state funding, ultimately the decision falls on the shoulders of the state Infrastructure Council with input from the Public Service Commission and the Division of Environmental Protection.

"The county commissions can create public service districts," Swann said. "If they want to create a PSD to handle the jail's sewage or extend lines out from the Norton-Harding-Jimtown PSD, they would still have to come to the PSC."

Randolph County Commissioner Ira Coberly, however, says that the commission has authority when it comes to local PSDs changing or adding customers. He said commissioners have dealt with this type of thing before.

Coberly said Canterbury and Hammond approached the commission about deciding which system will get the lucrative contract. Historically, when a regional jail is built, the community that gets the sewage line extension also gets additional money for more construction.

Canterbury said the Regional Jail Authority sets aside a certain amount of construction money, usually about $400,000, for a sewage package plant. Of the seven regional jails that are operating, none have a package plant on-site, he said.

He said the jail authority's main concern is the new jail, but added, "if we can improve someone's sewer system and open up some homes to sewage and create some business opportunities, then we're all for it."

Oftentimes, that money becomes seed money for the PSD or town utility to obtain further funding for other construction, he said.

Canterbury has been in favor of extending sewage lines to Junior in Barbour County since the beginning of the project for several reasons.

He believes there is more developable land between the regional jail site and Junior than there is between the regional jail site and Elkins.

Coberly said officials from the Norton-Harding-Jimtown PSD will not enter the bidding process for the sewage service, but want to make sure their customers are included in the new service.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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