By Richard Kerns
Tribune Staff Writer
KEYSER – The Keyser City Council last week took the first step toward approving loans totaling $15 million to pay for design and construction of pending water and sewer system upgrades.
The first readings of measures to approve four revenue bonds covered the design of a new sewage treatment plant, installation of new sewage and storm-water systems on Chestnut Street, replacement of aging water lines throughout much of the city and refurbishment of water storage tanks, and construction of a new water-treatment plant.
The financing package does not cover the cost of building the new sewage treatment plant, which is expected to total at least $25 million, with the state picking up about half of that expense.
The package also does not include $3 million in federal stimulus grant funding to help pay for the new water plant.
A representative of the Charleston legal firm Spillman Thomas & Battle attended Wednesday's City Council meeting to present the four measures on first reading. They must be approved on second reading slated for the next Council meeting on April 10, and then will be the subject of a public hearing before action is taken on a third and final reading.
All four revenue bonds were approved unanimously by the City Council on first reading. Funding totals approved for the bonds were for maximum draws to account for possible project-cost over-runs, with the city hoping that the final costs come in less than the amounts approved Wednesday.
The first revenue bond provides $1.2 million for design of the new sewage treatment plant. The existing plant on Waxler Road is being replaced as part of a federal mandate tied to the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. Recognizing the significant financial burden that is falling on Mountain State communities in the Chesapeake watershed, the state of West Virginia has set aside funding to cover about 40 percent of such projects.
Users themselves – including those living outside Keyser whose sewage systems utilize the city's plant – will pay the remainder of the costs through higher rates that will pay back the loans over several decades.
The second revenue bond approved last week provides up to $3 million for upgrades to the Chestnut Street/Hawthorne Heights area, where aging sewer lines will be replaced and new storm drains and guttering installed. The project will also provide for newly paved streets throughout the neighborhood.
The third revenue bond provides $5.2 million to replace several miles of aging, corroded galvanized-steel water lines in Keyser. The project – which was redesigned under Mayor Randy Amtower to exclude extension of water lines outside the city to the Hollywood Road addition in favor of the line replacement in Keyser – also includes refurbishment of a water supply tank at Potomac State College.
Page 2 of 2 - The last revenue bond provides up to $5.5 million for wholesale replacement of the city's 90-year-old water treatment plant, with the new facility being built at the site of the existing plant on Water Street. The project also includes $3 million in grant funding provided through the federal stimulus program.
As with the new sewer plant, users of the Keyser water system can expect to pay for the various upgrades through increases to their water and sewer rates over the life of the loans, which extend forward more than 30 years.