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Putnam commission moves on water extension

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Despite uncertainty about whether West Virginia American Water will help fund a project that would bring about 70 residents water, Putnam County commissioners voted to try Tuesday.

In a 2-1 vote, commissioners Joe Haynes and Gary Tillis said moving forward with waterline extension projects in Custer Ridge, Sigmon Fork, Painters Fork and Trace Fork are worth the cost.

Tillis said the county could apply for a loan with the state Infrastructure Jobs Development Council that offers a low interest rate between 1 and 2 percent that would fund the extension. He also noted the county already had about $50,000 set aside for the project.

Commissioner Steve Andes voted against the motion to move forward. He said the estimated $2.3 million project was too expensive, especially since Putnam is already $13 million in debt.

"I don't think it's fiscally responsible to borrow $2 million at this time. I know it's a low interest rate, but the burden is too much," he said. "It's a hope and a prayer [the water company] would contribute anything."

Last year, West Virginia American Water pulled funding from water extension projects. But the county is hopeful they can negotiate some help if they present signed user agreements from the four areas to the company.

About six residents in Painters Fork still need to sign a user agreement with the water company before county officials can ask for help with the project, Jim Nagy of Terradon Corp. told commissioners Tuesday. Nagy is overseeing the project.

Eighty percent of residents in Custer Ridge, Sigmon Fork and Trace Fork have already signed user agreements, which is sufficient to move forward.

Haynes and Tillis said residents who haven't signed probably doubt the project will get off the ground and aren't in a rush to sign.

"They've seen this come and go before, and we don't want to raise false hopes," Haynes said.

However, Tillis said, "We've never went this far with it."

After the remaining user agreements are signed, an engineering firm will establish a more accurate idea of what the project would cost and county officials will talk with the water company about a contribution.

"If we move forward there's still room to back out if the water company doesn't come through," Haynes said.

"The water company is the only hurdle thrown in front of us," Tillis said.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved a bid for $33,526 with Raynes & Company LLC, of Eleanor, to clean out ditches in Hometown and begin to temporarily alleviate flooding.

A 2010 study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the easiest temporary solution would be to simply clear the town's ditches and drains.

The $33,000 would allow ditches to be dredged from the elementary school to A Street. The ditches along the train tracks are filled with years of silt runoff.

Commissioners have about $39,000 to devote to the dredging work, and said they would use about $6,000 remaining to dredge as much as they can in areas leftover.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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