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Resident questions Hanford City sewer project

By Staff | Jun 13, 2012

Councilmembers Jason Hood and Curtis Heintzman inspect the Humvee procured by the Sistersville Police Department through a military surplus grant. SPD Chief Ben Placer noted the vehicle did not cost the city a dime.

At a meeting held last year, the residents of Hanford City asked the City of Sistersville to sponsor a sewer extension project to eliminate deficiencies in their current waste disposal process, as well as violations of the “Clean Water Act.” It was noted at that time that funding for the project would not come at the expense the city or the residents of Sistersville.

Vic Wilford, a representative from the engineering firm handling the project for the city, explained the process by which the system would be installed and funded. According to his report, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would extend a loan in the amount of $1.2 million to cover the cost of the extension. “The DEP to longer uses the term ‘grant’ in reference to funds,” Wilford explained at the February, 2011 meeting. “Instead, the funding will come in the form of a loan to be paid back over the course of 40 years. “Every year, they will wipe off a portion of the loan. It’s called loan forgiveness.”

He called the system “self-sustaining” and informed the city council that the citizens of Hanford City would pay back the remaining $216,000.

Monday evening, a concerned Sistersville resident posed questions regarding the extension project and the motives behind its initiation.

“Why is the City of Sistersville undertaking (the Hanford City) project when it currently does not provide sewage to the residents of Virginia Terrace,” queried Dan Heintzman.

Sistersville Mayor David B. Fox replied, “If Virginia Terrace wants sewage, they can come to us and ask us for it.”

“If that’s the case, why are you sending it to Hanford City when they don’t have it up there?” Heintzman persisted.

“Most of the houses in Virginia Terrace have septic tanks.” Fox noted. “Forty-five houses in Hanford City are currently dumping waste into the waterway, contaminating the Ohio River.

Heintzman remarked, “There are about a half dozen houses down there that have septic tanks.”

“Yes, and the other 45 don’t,” Fox interjected.

“Why is that a problem for Sistersville?”

Fox answered, “That should be a problem for everybody.”

Heintzman implied the issue should have been passed on to the Tyler County Public Service District. Fox clarified the project for Heintzman. “It’s not costing the City of Sistersville one penny to do that $1.2 million project. Not one penny.”

“On one paragraph in the legal notice it says rates won’t be raised. In another paragraph it says there will be a $1 per thousand gallon surcharge to all residents.”

Fox asked, “Did you read this paragraph yourself?”

“Yes I did,” Heintzman replied. “It was in the legal notices last week in the Tyler Star News.”

“The City of Sistersville has not even discussed raising the rates. And we will not discuss this,” Fox said. “Again, this project is not costing the citizens of Sistersville one penny.”

He added, “It’s cleaning up your waterways and I don’t see an issue with it.”

“I read it under surcharges,” Heintzman said.

Mayor Fox questioned the councilmembers. “Has any one of you said anything about raising the rates? Has any one of you given an ad to the newspaper about raising the rates?” The councilmembers answered, no.

Fox asked the same of the city recorder and the city attorney. Both Diana Mace and Dean Rohrig answered, no.

(Editor’s note: In the June 6 issue of the Tyler Star News, a legal notice from the Public Service Commission of the State of West Virginia outlined the legal guidelines for the Hanford City sewer extension project, which is sponsored by the City of Sistersville. The following was found under the subheading “surcharges”: All water customers shall pay a temporary surcharge of $1 per thousand gallons of water purchased from the City, which amount shall be dedicated to and applied to payment of the said deficiencies each month until as the said deficiencies have been eliminated. This language applies to the amount to be paid by the property owners in the Hanford City area who will be receiving sewage service from the City of Sistersville.)

* * * *

Audist Pancake appeared before the city council to announce the grand opening of her business, Making Miracles.

“We are officially opening on June 23 at 10 a.m.,” she commented. Pancake invited the councilmembers to stop by, as well as the public.

The gift shop, which will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., will feature inspirational gifts ranging from Bibles to books and umbrellas to T-shirts and jewelry. “There will be a wide variety of items,” she stated.

Additionally, the store will carry a selection of gently used Christian books. All proceeds from the sale of the books will go to the Sistersville Area Ministerial Association. Anyone interested in making a love offering toward the collection is welcome to do so.

Pancake said the inspiration for the store came to her in a “God moment.”

“I was walking down the street and I stopped in front of the building. Something (or someone) told me I was going to own it one day,” she remarked.

And the business is not hard to find. In fact, it’s the only purple building in town. Pancake said her daughter picked out the paint.

The store plans to sponsor several community activities in the near future, including a sidewalk art show on July 21 at 1 p.m. “I’d like to do some outreach in the community,” Pancake said. “The youth in the community and the surrounding area are invited to come down and draw something Biblical on the sidewalk with chalk.” She asked permission to use her sidewalk, as well as those in the area around her business.

As a courtesy, the council instructed Pancake to request permission from her neighbors, as well.

“I’m anxious to see some of the drawings,” Fox remarked.

Council moved to appoint Ann Doig as a voting member of the Sistersville Ferry Board. “Ann is our council representative,” Fox explained. “We want to make her a voting member of that board.”

In other business, the council approved a measure to name the city’s boat docks in memory of Allen Maxwell and the ferry landing in honor of John Eckles. “I make a motion that we do this,” Doig said.

Next month, the city will make the final payment on the line of credit used to finance the paving project completed four years ago. The council is looking at new areas to pave. “What we are looking at is basically the same rate and the same amount of money,” Fox stated.

The last paving project cost the city approximately $160,000.

“At this point we are looking to start with the road in front of the park (McCoy),” Fox said. He stated that the city is planning to construct a small bridge in that area. “We are going to do the work ourselves, which will save us tens of thousands of dollars.”

“We are also looking at paving in the park and along the riverfront,” Fox said. “Then we will take every street in town and we will start with the worst and pave those streets first.”

“There are two or three streets that are in dire need of paving,” Councilman Curtis Heintzman said.

“Naturally we won’t have enough money to pave every street in town,” Fox remarked. “But we can systematically pick out the worst ones and start there.”

The mayor encouraged the council to develop the City’s riverfront. “You’re not going to have any industry coming here, so you need to develop your riverfront. I’m sure the Planning Commission and the other parties are in line with this, and agree.”

He reiterated his focus for the paving project, “If we are going to bring anyone here, it’s going to be through tourism. We need to develop our riverfront.”