August 5, 2008

No Official Objection to Monongah Water Plan

By Mallory Panuska, The Times West Virginian, Fairmont

Aug. 5--FAIRMONT -- During a public hearing with the West Virginia Public Service Commission Monday morning, there was no official opposition to the Town of Monongah obtaining a certificate of convenience and necessity for a new municipal water plant.

Ronnie McCann, deputy chief law judge for the PSC, will now take information about Monongah's proposed nearly $4.6 million water plant renovation project and has until Oct. 1 to make a ruling on whether or not to grant the town's request. And from there, the PSC has 20 days to accept, reject or modify the decision.

Representatives from the town and legal counsel from the City of Fairmont, which initially filed a Petition for Leave to Intervene on the project, were in attendance at Monday's short hearing. According to code requirements, if there is even one objection filed to an application, a public hearing is mandatory, McCann said.

On July 21, PSC staff recommendations were filed in favor of the application and against Fairmont's intervention. And although Fairmont officially withdrew its intervention on July 30 to honor the wishes of the PSC, McCann said the hearing still had to be held in case anyone else wanted to object to the application.

"We knew Fairmont has decided to support the project, but other people could have come to object," he said.

And if McCann decides to rule in favor of the staff recommendation and grant Monongah's application, Monongah Mayor Roger Huffman said the town will then begin the planning stages of the new plant.

"To me, I believe it's official now," Huffman said after the hearing. "We are one step closer. We are just moving forward."

Originally, Fairmont officials believed it would make more sense and would likely be more cost effective to service Monongah's customers from its own, nearby plant. But with the city looking at a nearly 51-percent rate increase, PSC staff determined that it would cheaper for Monongah's customers if the town renovates its current plant.

At 57 years old, Monongah's plant is in desperate need of renovations, which will be completed by engineers Chapman Technical Group and funded by a grant and a loan for the Rural Utilities Service if the town's certificate is approved. Representatives from Chapman also attended Monday's hearing.

E-mail Mallory Panuska at [email protected]


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