WELLSBURG - Officials are continuing to seek a grant for a planned second phase of the Mahan Lane-Eldersville Road-Bruin Drive sewer project but also are exploring other funding options.
Crews with Alex Paris Contracting of Atlasburg, Pa., are working to extend sewer lines to 461 homes and small businesses on the three roads, part of St. John's Road and many side lanes as part of an $8.9 million project funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and $2.5 million loan and $775,000 grant from the West Virginia Infrastructure Development and Job Council.
But the district has failed to secure a $1.3 million Small Cities Block Grant to extend sewer lines to an additional 550 homes on Eldersville Road east of Mahan Lane, other areas of St. John's Road and in the community of Louise.
Randy Watson, project manager for Thrasher Engineering, which designed the project, said obtaining state loans for water and sewer projects has become more difficult.
He said public service districts now are required to raise their rates to 2 percent of their customers' median household income to be eligible for 40-year no-interest loans.
The district's rate of about $41 per 4,000 gallons is at 1.5 percent of Brooke County's median household income.
Watson said it may be possible for the district to secure a $475,000 loan at 0.5 percent over 30 years without raising its rate.
He said the district would need to reduce the number of new customers added in Phase 2 but the additions there and possibly in other areas of the county would help to fund sewer extensions to others in the future.
The board is expected to consider Watson's proposal at its Feb. 9 meeting.
Barbara Zimnox, community development specialist for the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, earlier told the board the Small Cities Block Grant had a good chance of being approved this year if the first phase was 80 percent complete at the time of application.
Several involved with the project - including Elbert Morton, a representative of the state Division of Environmental Protection; Wayne Mielke, the PSD's legal counsel; and Zimnox told the board on Jan. 26 the project should be 80 percent complete when the grant is considered.
Steve Haynes, lead inspector for Thrasher Engineering, said the work currently is about 70 percent complete.
Haynes said nine crews are working on Mahan Lane, Madonna Lane, Eldersville Road and in the Cross Creek area. To accommodate the work on Mahan Lane, the road is being closed at various times between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Watson said at this time it appears likely there will be enough money in the project's contingency fund to pick up additional customers on Eldersville Road and in the Leon Addition area.
Esther Chalfont and other residents of Eldersville Road east of Mahan Lane had complained because they were among residents who petitioned officials for the project and were excluded from the first phase.
Brooke County PSD officials said it was more economical to extend sewer lines on Eldersville Road west of Mahan Lane, but the residents east of it would be included in the second phase.
When the project went to bid, they agreed to include an alternate bid that would involve extending sewer lines east on Eldersville Road if funds were available.
Watson noted he'd been cautious about the alternate bid because the contingency fund is 5 percent of the project's cost, which he said is very low for a project of its size.
In other business, the board moved to re-hire Janet Klein as office manager with the same salary and benefits she'd received before her resignation earlier this month.
The move was approved by board members Karen Mezan and Joseph Kulin and opposed by Archie Doll.
Doll sided with resident Delores Lopez of Follansbee, who said the position should have been advertised after Klein resigned.
But Mezan said Klein had continued to work part-time at the district office, helping another staff member, and was paid for her services. She said the district didn't need to advertise because the job was "not totally vacant."
They didn't say why Klein had resigned or sought to be rehired.
The board also agreed to move its first meetings of each month from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m. It meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, with the second meeting designated for discussion of the sewer project, at its office at 711 Charles St.
The second meeting also is held at 4 p.m.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)