Bethany sewer project advances

BETHANY – Bethany Council on Wednesday moved forward with plans to replace a 510-foot section of sewer line, agreeing to seek a loan for the project, and is expected to consider a rate increase to support it.

Council agreed to apply for a 10-year loan for up to $200,000 to replace the broken sewer line, which extends under Main Street (state Route 67) between College and Ross streets.

The damaged line has been blamed for several potholes on Main Street, and plans call for the project to include re-pavement of the street.

Mayor Jay Eisenhauer said Cerrone and Associates, the engineer for the project, is accepting bids and hopes to present them at council’s Aug. 6 meeting.

He noted by approving the application, council isn’t greenlighting the project itself or a rate increase eyed to support it.

He said in addition to replacing the broken sewer line, the town faces increasing costs for electricity and other expenses in operating its wastewater treatment system.

Eisenhauer said three rate increases were proposed when the system underwent $3.1 million in upgrades several years ago but only two were implemented because the cost of the project was reduced, largely through the use of city crews.

The project also was funded by a state grant and $565,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The mayor said when the project came in under budget, the town was permitted to use funds remaining from the loan to pay expenses such as a five-year supply of bacteria used to break down waste in the system’s sludge pond.

But he said those funds are becoming depleted.

“We’re getting to the point we’re no longer living off the fat of the Phase 2 loan,” Eisenhauer said.

He stressed as a resident, he isn’t looking forward to a rate increase but the state requires wastewater treatment systems to balance revenue and expenses.

“I want to pay the least amount for sanitation, too,” he said.

In other business, council:

Agreed to seek a grant from Chesapeake Energy for the development of a small park or other efforts to beautify the town. Councilman Patrick Sutherland said several sites have been eyed for the proposed park, which could include a picnic table and benches.

Was presented results from a survey of residents conducted by Bethany College Professor John Hall and his psychology students. Sutherland said the survey was initiated by the town’s planning commission after Eisenhauer sought ways to seek public input.

Response to the survey was lower than hoped for, with 27 of about 174 households participating. Sutherland said the students conducted the survey door to door but didn’t leave them on doors if no one was home.

Sutherland said the survey still is helpful in showing public sentiment about various issues.

Hall said when asked what they like most about the town, most said it was peaceful, friendly, safe and beautiful. When asked what they dislike, most said the town’s distance from or lack of businesses.

Participants also were asked to rate their opinion of various statements from 1, showing total disagreement, to 5, for total support.

A majority said the town, with help from the state Division of Highways and natural gas companies, should repair damaged sewer lines and potholes on Main Street, and the town should encourage economic development on Main Street.

Most didn’t support annexing Peace Point or employing a full-time police officer or paid firefighters. The town employs part-time police officers and is served by a volunteer fire department.

The mayor and council didn’t address specific issues covered by the survey but expressed appreciation for the feedback. Eisenhauer suggested one could be done every two years.

A need for more housing was raised by some who participated.

Council is slated to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday with Pat Ford of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle to discuss how the town and the BDC may work together to address that.

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