By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
Town of Davis Mayor Al Tomson and City of Thomas Major Jody Flanagan accompanied by, the Director of the Tucker County Development Authority, Steve Leyh asked the Tucker County Commission for a consideration to form a new Public Service District. Leyh reported that the Town of Davis and the City of Thomas’ sewer feasibility study was completed and upon recommendation from the study a new PSD in a centralized location is needed.
According to the feasibility study, “The Tucker County Development Authority is committed to encouragement of growth and opportunity in the area, enhancement and maintenance of economic development, and preservation of Tucker County’s values and heritage. The county’s economy is largely based on the following industries: Manufacturing, Construction and Retail Trade.
Tucker County is a rural county located in the beautiful mountainous area of northeastern West Virginia. It was created in Virginia and formed from Randolph County (which lies to the south) in 1856. The county is named for Henry St. George Tucker, an eminent jurist and statesman.
The county is within a one-day drive of much of the eastern United States and Canada. The county is located within a 500-mile radius of more than 50% of the population of the United States. U.S. Route 48, otherwise known as Corridor H, will provide a four-lane highway through the county within the next few years. The road, much of which is currently in the design phase, will open the door to new markets along the East Coast.
Tucker County is home to five Class IV municipalities including Davis, Hambleton, Hendricks, Thomas, and the county seat of Parsons. Overall, Tucker County is approximately 421 square miles. The elevation of the county ranges from 4,420 feet at the top of Weiss Knob to 1,450 feet where the Cheat River crosses the Tucker/Preston County line.
Tucker County’s mountainous terrain promotes healthy living and a great quality of life. Still, appropriate services and abundant resources make it possible for economic growth to flourish in this area.
The lack of wastewater capacity, primarily the capacity for treatment, however, has significantly limited economic development particularly in the Thomas and Davis area of Tucker County, stalling the construction of much needed affordable housing, the build-out of the Tucker County Industrial Park, development of the Corridor H area, as well as the growth of the Town of Davis and City of Thomas.”
A part of the suggested recommendations according to the study are, “To achieve the major increases in capacity needed to accommodate the projected demand in this region, the construction of a new, centralized WWTP is recommended. This facility would utilize modern treatment technologies and would need to discharge to the North Fork Blackwater River, potentially near Douglas.
The treatment plant alone (nominal 1 MGD capacity initially, with room for expansion up to 2 MGD and beyond) could range from $15.6M to $19.5M. Coupled with the necessary pump stations, site development, decommissioning of existing facilities, and effluent line (together estimated at $10.4M to $13.0M) the total project cost for this centralized treatment facility to become operational could range from $26M to $32.5M. However, even if aggressively pursued, it is unlikely a centralized WWTP could be in operation prior to a 5-year timeline.
Therefore, for a centralized WWTP to become operational prior to the existing facilities’ capacities are again outstripped (following the recommended short-term measures to gain capacity), the planning and design of a centralized facility would need to begin immediately and at an accelerated pace, in parallel with the implementation of the recommended short-term improvements at the existing facilities.
The development of a centralized WWTP would likely also require the formation of a new public utility.”
Tomson said, “POTESTA did a fantastic job with the study. They talked to all the organizations that were involved. They worked with the DEP. They worked with everybody to come up with a recommendation plan going forward. The forward plan really has some granularly recommendations, but it does not have the final solutions because again it goes back to the PSD. The PSD must work those final solutions. The feasibility study puts recommendations forward to say we want to move in this direction.”
Commissioners Lowell Moore and Mike Rosenau voted yes to approve the consideration to form the new PSD. This is the one of the many steps needed to get grant funding and as they say, “Get the ball rolling” on this project. Tomson said, “As you hear of so many entities having troubles with their storm water sewer treatment that is why we have said collectively we are a lot stronger. There is economy upscale. There are all kinds of benefits from working together as opposed to trying to do our own.”
Rosenau agreed and said, “I personally would rather see the communities working together than each trying to get one in their area. It is going to be cheaper for everybody. So, I appalled you for working together in that direction. The bottom line for me is to vote yes on a collective PSD. The ultimate is the tax payer, but I have been assured by Shane (Shane Whitehair, Executive Director at Region VII Planning and Development Council) that there are monies out there available to build this facility. A major part of it but the come back to the person that is paying the sewage bill is what I am concerned about.”
Rosenau then asked when the entities would have an idea of the cost would be to the customers. Tomson said that the PSD would be doing an analysis, a study, the logistics and procuring the funding. Tomson, Flanagan, and Leyh will be talking with Secretary of Commerce, Ed Gaunch, next week to about funding for sewer related issues. Gaunch has spoken to the group on several occasions and supports them on the project.
The full study and recommendations can be found at Wastewater Feasibility Study – Tucker County Development Authority (tuckerwv.com) online.