Bethany proceeds with sewer rate hike

BETHANY — Bethany Council last week moved forward with plans to raise the town’s sewer rate and heard about efforts by town police to work with Bethany College.

Council approved the second reading in August for the 25 percent rate hike, which will bring the average monthly bill for customers who use up to 3,000 gallons of water per month from $31.73 to $39.95.

Town Recorder Cindy Hoffman told council the proposed increase will be submitted for review by the state Public Service Commission.

Pending the state PSC’s approval, it’s expected to go into effect in October. The town’s 260 sewer customers are billed by the Ohio County Public Service District, which provides water to them and bills them separately for that service.

The first increase to the sewer rate in four years, it’s expected to generate $25,000 to $40,000 per year for the sanitation system.

In related business, council agreed to loan up to $10,000 from the town’s coal severance fund for emergency repairs, if needed, to the sanitation system.

Following the meeting, Mayor Pat Sutherland said recently one of two pumps for the sanitation system failed and the town’s sanitation board faced replacing it for $10,000.

“But our sanitation employees were able to repair it for a fraction of that,” he said.

Sutherland said the loan is in case the other pump should fail before the new rate kicks in.

Council also heard from Bethany Police Chief Micah Knisley, who said he hopes to secure a grant or other funds for at least three portable radios, two car radios and a base station for his department.

He estimated their cost at about $5,000 if purchased through a bulk order with other local law enforcement agencies.

Knisley said town police made 17 traffic stops on Main Street and state Route 88 on Aug. 22, the first day of school for freshmen at Bethany College, to deter the students from speeding on the roads, which have a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

He said most of the violators, who weren’t only college students, were given a warning. One person was cited for driving at 50 miles per hour.

Knisley said his department also arrested four Bethany students for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He said the four will appear in municipal court, while their futures at the school will be determined by college officials.

The chief said he and Sutherland met recently with college officials to discuss working more closely with law enforcement on the campus.

Knisley said the availability of private security guards for college events has become an issue for the school, and the powers of such guards are more limited than police.

He said the campus is part of the community, and his department and the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department have investigated crimes and disturbances there when called.

The meeting included a discussion of establishing a closer relationship between the college and law enforcement and included talk of scenarios ranging from a satellite’s office for the sheriff’s department in the town to a partnership between the town and college that would support a full-time town police force.

The town’s police department consists of eight part-time officers, including Knisley, who work an average of 12 hours per week.

During the council meeting, it was noted West Liberty University has a full-time campus police department said to have the same authority and powers as government law enforcement agencies.

Town Solicitor Mark Panepinto agreed to look into legal ramifications of the town police serving on campus.

Following the meeting, Sutherland said before committing the town’s police to a bigger role at the college, council must consider issues, including its budget for the department.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

COMMENTS