CHARLES TOWN – Charles Town City Council members on Monday offered up more questions about the Rockwool project underway in Ranson, ultimately opting to delay a vote on a sewer bond for the work — again. The council initially had been set to vote on the bond back in August.
On Monday, council members peppered the Charles Town Utility Board’s assistant manager Kristen Stolipher and legal counsel Hoy Shingleton with a barrage of questions about the factory before taking a vote.
State officials are offering cost-free financing to construct the $10 million sewer line for the insulation factory.
What’s not in dispute is that Rockwool can require CTUB to provide sewer service – whether the state pays for the line or not. Under state law, the city’s utility authority must provide Rockwool its sewer service, as long as doing so is feasible.
Because the Rockwool sewer line is intertwined with other CTUB projects, Stolipher said that postponing a decision on the Route 9 Sewer Project will delay other projects, including a fix for one community’s sewage system.
New questions raised at Monday night’s council meeting include:
- Would Charles Town be liable for any debt if the state were to default on an infrastructure loan the state is offering the city and also promising to pay no matter what? (Short answer from CTUB: No.)
- Could high concentrations of chloride in factory wastewater damage the city’s sewer system? (Answer: No.)
- Will the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection confirm the facts, assumptions and science made in a permit key permit application? (Short answer: Yes, but we’ll double check.)
- Is the state loan contingent upon the city obtaining its DEP permit? (Short answer: Yes.)
- Does the city’s utility authority, the Charles Town Utility Board, have to accept industrial waste? (Answer: Yes, but we’ll double check.)
At one point Council Member Bob Trainor asked Stolipher: “So the Rockwool line is not solely about Rockwool?”
“Absolutely not,” she said.
Stolipher said because it will take eight to nine months to construct the Route 9 Sewer Project if approved.
At one point Trainor asked Shingleton whether there is a legal definition of sewage that the council can rely on.
The City Council is free to turn down the loan from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, which the IJDC would in turn pay from indirect financing from a bond the city would issue directly to the development council.
Six weeks ago, council members said they were stunned to learn the city already owes the City of Ranson $1 million in engineering and pre-construction costs related to Route 9 Sewer Project.
The obligation – which the state would assume if the city accepts its sewer financing – came buried in the paperwork details of the city’s acquisition of Ranson’s sewer operations last summer.
Mayor Scott Rogers said he would not have have supported the acquisition if he had known about the debt obligation.
Last week, the IJDC voted to increase the cost of the sewer project – and the value of the loan – to help Charles Town absorb the cost of the project.
Trainor asked when a service customer’s project becomes enough of an economic hardship for a utility for that utility to turn down the project. (Shingleton: If the utility receives the money for the project, there’s no financial hardship.)
Council Member Mike Tolbert asked if the Rockwool sewer line might require the city to expand its water treatment plant. (Shingleton: Rockwool would not generate enough waste for that to be a consideration.)
Council Member Ann Paonessa, an attorney, asked that council members receive all documents—including a final industrial sewer permit modification that city was required to apply for—involved in legally consummating the sewer line project financing—so council members can review the documents well ahead of the closing transaction.
The City Council weeks ago scheduled Monday’s discussion of Rockwool sewer service. At the time, the hope existed that council members might vote on the sewer line.
Then council informally agreed to schedule another discussion possibly in two or three weeks.