Westlake Lane scratched from sanitary sewer project

NEW CUMBERLAND – A project to extend sanitary sewer services to more unincorporated parts of Hancock County is being scaled back because of an anticipated lack of state funding, officials said.

The Hancock County Public Service District originally planned to build sewer lines for an estimated 208 customers on Westlake Lane, U.S. Route 30 from Taylor Road to the Pennsylvania state line, and a small section of state Route 8. The residential and commercial properties currently are on septic systems.

That project, with an initial cost estimate of $8.2 million, will likely be revised to incorporate just the Route 30 portion, PSD Chairman Bill Mackall said.

“Westlake Lane has been dropped from the project,” Mackall said. “The money that was available for Westlake Lane is not available now downstate (in Charleston) because it’s first-come, first-served. … We didn’t get there quick enough.”

When the project was announced in January, some Westlake Lane residents voiced their opposition, saying they were happy with their septic systems and didn’t want to bear the extra cost of being connected to the Hancock County PSD system. Some of those residents also signed a petition in opposition to the project.

While the residents’ wishes were a factor, the biggest reason for the project revision was a lack of funding, PSD Office Manager Anita Mahan said.

“Unfortunately, there’s just not the funding out there that used to be there. It’s very hard to find state and federal funding for infrastructure projects,” Mahan said. “It seems to be a real problem with everybody (in West Virginia).”

District officials hope to resubmit their project application to the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council in November, following the PSD board’s Nov. 13 meeting. The council is the chief funding authority for water and wastewater treatment projects in West Virginia.

The PSD board likely will revise the scope of the project after meeting with project engineer Paul Ghosh, of Paul Ghosh Engineers Inc. in Charleston.

“It’s in the hands of the engineer, the accountant and the lawyer,” PSD Treasurer Del Wright said.

Once they determine the scope of the project, board members will resubmit the application and await approval from the state infrastructure council. Such an answer could come by January, Ghosh said.

If the state application is approved, the PSD board likely will have to obtain a loan to cover the costs of a project design, Wright said. The design phase could take about a year, putting the project even further behind schedule, he said.

District officials originally had hoped to begin construction in 2015, but that date likely will be pushed back, Wright said.

“The progress on that is very, very slow,” he said.

The last major sanitary sewer project by the Hancock County PSD was completed in 2009 and involved extending sewer lines to 674 customers on state Route 8. That project’s $18 million price tag was covered by $6 million in state and federal grants and $12 million in loans.

The new project likely will incorporate all the businesses along Route 30, including National Church Solutions (formerly National Church Supply), Wright said. It probably will hook up to the PSD’s Johnsonville Road line, he said.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)