Petitions ordered to reach compromise


BUCKHANNON — The City’s Sanitary Board continued discussions of preparations and plans of action for the reassignment over the Route 33 West territory last Thursday. The meeting offered the discourse of having filed petitions to necessitate Tennerton and Hodgesville Public Service Districts respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests ordered by the City of Buckhannon.

With much conversation to finalize plans regarding the Route 33 project, no actual agreements have been made at this time.  With opposition to the reassignment for Tennerton PSD to possibly carry out projects concerning sewer utilities on Route 33 West, the City continues to make efforts in rebuttal of the proposal following recent and readvised conversations with Upshur County Commission and commercial developers of the project. Mayor McCauley, City Council and the Sanitary Board remain firm in hopes their requests will be acknowledged and carried out.

City Attorney Thomas O’Neill clarified that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were made October 4 and by State law, it is required that those FOIA requests be responded to within five days.  In accordance with the petitions that were forwarded November 14 to the Circuit Court of Upshur County, the City of Buckhannon submitted a written request to Terry Gould, the Custodian of Public Records for both Tennerton and Hodgesville PSDs, to include: a copy of both PSDs’ 2019 and 2020 fiscal year budget; copy of each PSDs’ most current financial statements to include annual profit and loss statement, statement of cash flows, and balance sheet; a roster of all persons employed by each PSD during the preceding 12 months, including their salaries or rate of pay; and each PSDs’ most recent financial audit.

To denote, Terry Gould being overseer of both bodies of public services, Tennerton PSD and Hodgesville PSD, was unsuccessful at rendering the prescribed documents to be available for review from the request made on October 4, whereas October 11 marked the deadline for returning the requested information or even response to declination of request and has yet to do  either to this day. O’Neill stated, “Neither Tennerton nor Hodgesville PSDs did either. We let it go probably for three weeks. I filed against both Tennerton and Hodgesville PSDs and Terry Gould since he is the Custodian of Records. There was a chance that they [representatives of PSDs] would have been heard today.” O’Neill also received indication that the suit may be mooted by the hearing set on December 5, on the account that the PSDs provide the requested materials. “All we are really after is this information,” O’Neill added. 

McCauley mentioned how they have been trying to retrieve this information for some years now, and that when these matters arose, part of the question was whose system has the financial integrity to undertake the project. McCauley indicated the city was just trying to “compare apples to apples.”

“Since we just received it today, other than providing copies very soon to the members of the board to reflect upon, we would have it on our agenda to take action to possibly commence projects, possibly as early as spring 2020,” McCauley stated. “I think we are going to get these utility issues resolved with the developers of the Sanitary Board and the developers of the Water Board coming together, figuring out the formula to realize how we are going to finance and fund projects,” he continued. The mayor also noted that the proposal of exchanging ideas, having conversations about funding, and reaching numbers to agree on, would not be voted on until December 19. 

“However, we have had more recent conversations with certain of the commissioners. We have had more recent conversations with the primary developer [J.F. Allen Company] on both the north side and the south side of Route 33, and we’re optimistic,” McCauley stated. “We’re exchanging ideas for funding and trying to reach numbers that we might agree upon.” He continued, “We’ve been pretty steadfast in our position that if we get the financing lined up, that we would begin the north side [Route 33 West] sewer project roughly around March 1.” With an estimated $300,000 for the project, the Mayor also noted that roughly a year prior, the Sanitary Board agreed to move forward on the northside of the Route 33 West sewer project, allocating $100,000 of the funds. 

He continued, “We are starting the process to finalize plans, to apply for permitting and to secure any additional rights of way we need to create a very sound project that we believe we could have completed by November or earlier of 2020.” In reference to J.F. Allen’s proposal McCauley stated, “We aren’t ready to comment on a project that would likely occur during 2021 construction season that would realize both sewer and water on the south side of 33 [West].”

In conclusion, McCauley asserted that the intention would be to have both sewer and water services to the north and south side of Route 33 West by this time [November] 2021.

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