Bethany talks traffic woes, sewer agreement

BETHANY – Bethany Council on Wednesday discussed traffic problems at the intersection of state Routes 67 and 88 and a rise in billing costs through the Ohio County Public Service District that will lead to higher sewer rates for residents.

In recent months Bethany officials have expressed concern about vehicles failing to stop at the stop sign on Route 88 and traveling at high speeds around the sharp bend.

Bethany Police Chief Larry Palmer said he has been patrolling the area and has written many citations and warnings to drivers. He said the West Virginia Division of Highways plans to install a larger stop sign at the intersection in hopes of getting drivers’ attention.

Mayor Jay Eisenhauer said the state Division of Highways already posted additional signs on Route 88 alerting drivers of the speed limit.

The mayor said a sign informing drivers of the impending stop sign was accidentally placed by state crews on Route 88 near Logan Court instead of on the other side of Route 88. He said he’s advised the state of the error, and the sign near Logan Court may stay while another sign is posted in the correct location.

Councilman Pat Sutherland said another issue is vehicles turning from Route 67 onto Point Breeze Drive and veering into the opposing lane to avoid potholes in their lane. Sutherland, who lives on Point Breeze Drive, said he’s concerned about pedestrians being struck.

In recent months officials have asked the state to repair roads that have seen heavy wear from trucks involved with natural gas drilling, but town officials said drivers of various vehicles have been guilty of failing to follow traffic laws.

In other business, Eisenhauer told council the Ohio County Public Service District board has approached the sanitation board about plans to raise the amount it charges wastewater treatment.

The district provides water to 232 residents whose sewage is treated by Bethany.

Its staff conducts water meter readings, which are used to calculate their sewage; and bills them for both, with money from the sewage going to the town.

Ohio County PSD staff also may be called upon to shut off valves for those who fail to pay for Bethany’s service.

Eisenhauer said when the arrangement was made with the district in 2003, the town paid $100 per month for its services.

That amount rose once, in 2011, to $125, he said.

But citing rising operation costs, the district is seeking $754 per month from the town.

Eisenhauer said so far Bethany’s sewer customers haven’t been billed for the service charge paid to the Ohio County PSD, but the town can’t afford to assume that cost alone.

He said it’s also not feasible for the town to take over the meter reading and billing.

At Councilman Thom Furbee’s suggestion, Eisenhauer agreed to ask the district to consider raising the charge in increments, to reduce the impact on the town’s sewer customers.

Officials haven’t determined how much the town’s sewer rate would have to be raised to support the cost.

Eisenhauer said as with any rate increase, the service charge must be approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

Council members also heard from Bill Hicks, planning commission chairman, who asked them if they would like to make any changes to the town’s comprehensive plan. Adopted in 2008 as a guide to future development and improvements, the plan must be updated every 10 years.

Sutherland and Furbee suggested information about population derived from the 2000 Census needs to be updated.

Council members cited the upcoming removal of a two-story house and two garages at 111 Main St. as in keeping with the plan’s call for the removal of dilapidated structures.

Eisenhauer said the town recently purchased the property for $7,654 because its owner couldn’t afford to repair the buildings, which were in poor condition. He said in this case, the move was more effective than having the buildings condemned, which would have involved court costs for the town.

Council also:

Discussed the possible introduction of a hotel tax, which would be paid by guests at the Mountainside Conference Center and used to promote tourism in Bethany; and an ordinance restricting locations for video lottery cafes.

Sutherland, a member of the planning commission, said he’s not for or against the businesses but believes the town should have an ordinance in place, should one open.

Learned Keith Brammer, a Wheeling police officer, has been hired as a part-time officer with the Bethany Police Department. Palmer said Brammer brings experience in accident reconstruction, special emergency response and other areas to the job.

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