Fayette commission hears water, park updates

Feb. 3—The Fayette County Commission heard an update and fielded a budget request from Fayette County Park director Abbie Newell on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

The Fayette County Commission heard updates on extension of water service, as well as county park facilities and projects, at Wednesday's regular meeting.

During the meeting, a discussion was held with residents, engineers and Public Service District officials about Contracts 18 and 19 in the New Haven Public Service District, according to a press release from the county commission. Lesley Taylor, a senior project specialist with the Region 4 Planning & Development Council, gave updates on two current contracts:

—Contract 18 will extend water service to approximately 67 new customers in the Sunday Road, Confluence and Elliot Cutoff Road areas, as well as installation of connectors to Stringtown Road and Clifty. The project is anticipated to be ready for bids in April 2023, with a proposed completion date near the end of 2024 and a project cost of $4,620,265.

In a follow-up email, Taylor said the project includes about 7 miles of various-sized distribution line, gate valves, fire hydrants and other appurtenances. A certificate of convenience and necessity from the West Virginia Public Service Commission has been applied for and received for the project.

—Contract 19 proposes to extend water service to approximately 75 new customers in the Ramsey, Hawver, Cane Branch, South Miller Ridge, Arrowwood, Dotson Ridge and Lower Dotson Ridge areas, according to the county commission. The project is expected to be ready for bids in April 2024, with a proposed completion date near the end of 2025 at a cost of $7,048,013.

According to Taylor, the project attorney is working to obtain easements and property for the pressure-reducing station in Contract 19. "We anticipate the project will file an application for a certificate of convenience and necessity with the WVPSC in April 2023," she said. "Once the PSC approves the project, the project team will request authorization to bid from the funding agencies. We anticipate this project will be out for bid in April or May 2024."

Taylor said these two projects (as well as the entire New Haven PSD system) will be serviced through an operation and maintenance agreement with West Virginia American Water. The PSD owns the lines, but WVAWC operates and maintains them, she said.

"Both of the projects will result in a surcharge in addition to the current rates," Taylor continued. "The surcharge is used to service project debt, as there is a loan component to each of the projects.

"Because the combined rate plus the surcharge will result in customers' monthly bills likely being in excess of $80/month for 3,400-gallon usage, applications for Economic Enhancement Grant Funds from the WV Water Development Authority have been submitted. The applications should be reviewed by the Water Development Authority in mid-February. If the applications are successful, the Economic Enhancement Grant Funds will be used to reduce the amount of loan needed for the project, which will reduce (but not alleviate) the amount of the surcharge for each project."

As with many other projects along a broad swath of society, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused supply chain issues and other problem areas locally, she acknowledged.

"Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been multiple issues with supply chain issues and materials," said Taylor. "In addition, the costs of materials have increased significantly over pre-pandemic levels. The team understands the frustration over the delays in getting water service to these areas.

"The project team, including the Fayette County Commission, is committed to both projects and is working diligently to make the projects come to fruition."

A full recording of the meeting can be viewed on the Fayette County Commission's YouTube channel.

----Also Wednesday, Fayette County Park director Abbie Newell presented the park's fiscal year 2024 budget request and updated the commission on park activities and facilities. According to the press release, Newell presented a priorities list that was developed by the parks and recreation advisory board.

Central to the conversation was the condition and future of the swimming pool at the park, which is located in Beckwith. Dye testing is scheduled to determine the location and severity of a leak that is one of the reasons the pool will not be open this summer. A bid opening for a request to determine the cost of a new pool is set for Feb. 17.

According to Newell, the park budget request includes salaries for staff, utilities, training, maintenance and repairs, supplies for daily operations as well as large projects, and support for a youth summer camp program.

"We are looking for guidance from the commission, park advisory board and public input on prioritization of projects so we can best serve the taxpayers of Fayette County," said Newell, who came on board as park director on Oct. 1, 2022, when former director Wayne Workman transitioned to a post as operations manager. "Unfortunately, the pool will not be open this summer due to the leak and structural deterioration of the pool.

"A new pool will be a big project that will certainly take several funding sources to make it happen. We are currently accepting bids for design and construction; these bids will be opened by the commission at a public meeting later this month and, from there, a plan for the pool can be made."

Park staff are stressing other activities in the absence of pool availability in 2023.

"Due to the pool closure, we are actively pursuing other projects that will draw people to the park and that will provide quality recreation opportunities," Newell said. "The Fayette Trail Coalition is hosting monthly trail work days to work on a multi-use trail system at the park."

Also, she said, "We have partnered with the Fayette Resource Network, ICE Collaborative, county board of education and private business to start a pilot summer camp program for 2023. We hope to add mini-golf, pickleball, rental items such as bikes, disc golf, fishing, etc., to the park."

Another aim is to invest in upgrades to park buildings "so that we can serve ice cream and additional food options as well as provide more services to those who rent our spaces, increase the size of the stage to hold concerts, upgrade our shower houses and cabins for camps, add new Christmas light features, bring back the county fair, and complete some necessary road and shelter repair projects," Newell added. "Despite the lack of a pool, currently we are excited to see some new developments at the park and host several new events for the public throughout the year in addition to expanding upon our existing successful ones."

Newell said most of the major projects are in the planning stages and are funding-dependent, but the trails work is underway, as well as groundwork for the summer camp program and repair projects to park facilities.

The county commission and park staff welcome public input and thoughts at park@fayettecountywv.gov.