New Manchester residents unhappy with project

NEW MANCHESTER – A project to extend sanitary sewer services to residents of West Lake Lane and U.S. Route 30 in Hancock County has the approval of the state of West Virginia but not all the potential customers.

Residents of West Lake Lane who attended an informational meeting about the $8.2 million project on Monday were far from unanimous in their support.

“We don’t want it,” said Joyce Zoellers, one of 14 homeowners at the meeting.

Residents said the project is unnecessary and too costly.

But officials with the Hancock County Public Service District, which provides the county with sewer services, countered by saying only a third of the homeowners on West Lake Lane attended the meeting.

District Secretary Jerry Everly said West Lake Lane was included in the project because of available funding, a needs-assessment and resident support. Everly said residents signed a petition in support of the project, although he hasn’t seen the petition.

“If you don’t take (the service) now, you’ll never get it,” he said.

The project would extend sewer lines to 208 households on West Lake Lane in central Hancock County, U.S. 30 from Taylor Road to the Pennsylvania line, and a small section of state Route 8, said Paul Ghosh of Paul Ghosh Engineers Inc. in Charleston.

The project also would provide services to businesses along Route 30 east of Chester, including National Church Supply, PSD Chairman Bill Mackall said.

The district currently provides sanitary sewer services to about 1,500 customers in unincorporated portions of Hancock County. Its last big project, completed in 2009, extended sewer lines to 674 customers along state Route 8 from New Cumberland to the top of the hill near Roma’s Pizzeria, Ghosh said.

The new project, which just received funding approval from the state last week, includes parts of the county that were identified by Hancock County commissioners years ago as needing sanitary sewer service, Everly said.

“We picked the number of sections we could do with the amount of money we could get,” Everly said.

A funding package approved by the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council will include a $5.9 million loan and $2.3 million in grants, Ghosh said.

Residents and businesses in the target areas currently have septic systems, some of which have been the subject of complaints to the Hancock County Health Department because of offensive odors.

Everly said the sanitary sewer project would standardize service to those areas and eliminate health problems.

But residents at Monday’s meeting said they weren’t convinced they need or want the service.

“I don’t know why you would go through the expense … when it’s clear we don’t want it,” Zoellers said.

Residents peppered Ghosh and PSD board members with questions about the costs of the new system, homeowner obligations and the necessity of sewer lines.

Ghosh said residents who object to the project should state their case now because hook-up to the system is mandatory once it is completed. Residents will be billed whether they are hooked up to the system or not, said Anita Mahan, district office manager.

“If the project goes through, you cannot reject it,” Ghosh said. “You must abandon all other means of treatment, including septic systems. That’s the law.”

The project is still years away from completion. The design phase will take most of this year, and the permitting and bidding phase will take another year, Ghosh said. Actual construction probably won’t begin until 2015, with completion expected some time in 2016.

That’s also the year that district customers can expect their bills to go up from the current charge of $9.39 per thousand gallons used to a proposed rate of $10.05 per thousand gallons, he said.

The gravity-driven system will use existing treatment plants in Chester and the Deep Gut Run area of New Cumberland, Ghosh said.