CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Public Service District has recommended that the complaint filed by the New Creek Public Service District against the City of Keyser be dismissed.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Public Service District has recommended that the complaint filed by the New Creek Public Service District against the City of Keyser be dismissed.
The New Creek PSD filed the complaint against Keyser on Nov. 20, 2018, alleging that the flowmeter installed to measure the amount of sewage flowing from New Creek into Keyser’s system was inaccurate, resulting in an unfair escalation of charges for the treatment of the sewage.
According to PSD general manager and foreman Jeremy Shingler, New Creek’s bills had jumped from approximately $18,000 prior to installation of the meter to an average of $36,000. The bills have gone as high as $80,000 during periods of heavy rain.
As a result, New Creek has fallen behind in paying its sewage bill. The PSD had actually caught up once, in 2017, but fell behind again and, according to city administrator Buck Eagle, owed Keyser $162,834.44 as of early February.
Prior to the complaint being filed, representatives from the City of Keyser and New Creek PSD had met to try to work out some payment arrangements, but those talks were broken off once the complaint was filed.
In their complaint to the PSC, New Creek alleged that Keyser was “not performing weekly maintenance on the flow sensor, which causes the meter to read inconsistently. Due to this inconsistency, New Creek cannot afford the sewer bills from Keyser.”
According to documents from the Public Service Commission, issued Friday, Keyser replied that “the flow meter is reading accurately and is maintained on a weekly basis.”
As part of the PSC investigation, technical analyst James Spurlock reviewed the complaint and, according to PSC documents, “sees no indication that the district’s flows were over-measured.
“He therefore recommends no adjustment to the district’s bill. He also recommends continued billing based upon measured sewage flow.”
Spurlock also recommended that Keyser not only continue to calibrate the flow meter at least once a year, but to also make sure he can be present when it is done.
In New Creek’s favor, Spurlock also recommended that a representative of the PSD be able to collect daily flow meter readings “by either Keyser providing access to the meter or through the utilization of a clear cover on the flow meter cabinet.”
In the initial complaint, Shingler had said he was no longer being allowed to be present when Keyser workers checked or maintained the flowmeter. He therefore questioned the validity of the measurements.
The Public Service Commission also stated that Roger Estep, utilities analyst, had “found no reason for an adjustment to the bill based upon the operation of the meter,” and that he “further states he found no errors in Keyser’s billing.”
In a statement made during this week’s Keyser City Council meeting, prior to Friday’s recommendation by the PSC, mayor Damon Tillman said the total amount currently owed to Keyser by New Creek is $148,736.91.
Despite past inabilities at reaching an agreement, Tillman said he would continue to try to work with New Creek to determine how the money will be paid.
But “if we cannot come to an agreement, we will take the appropriate measures to protect the fiscal interests of the city, as well as its citizens, by any means necessary,” he said.
According to Dave Boden, chairman of the New Creek PSD, former members of the board refused to implement any rate hikes to try to keep the utility solvent, and they are therefore facing some big decisions in the near future.
In addition, the PSD is currently undergoing an investigation into possible embezzlement of funds by persons previously affiliated with the utility.