PIEDMONT - Ben Smith, Piedmont's water commissioner, gave an updated report at the recent council meeting concerning the water supply to the community.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
PIEDMONT - Ben Smith, Piedmont’s water commissioner, gave an updated report at the recent council meeting concerning the water supply to the community.
The present water supply flows through the pipes that are located on Verso property.
Smith said that he had recently spoken to officials of Verso, and, “They are backing off a little to take us off their water for a little while.”
He said that initially the water would be available to Piedmont until July 2020, adding that Verso did not give a specific date for the shut-off, however, Smith said the latest from Verso was, “There will be an adequate time” to find an alternate way for water to be supplied to Piedmont.
Smith feels, “What that means to me is they want us off the water as soon as possible.”
He is looking into other ways to supply water to Piedmont, and to emphasize this, Smith said that he has been in contact with a representative with the Army Corps of Engineers.
One option he reported is to have a new intake system in the Potomac River, and Smith said, “Because this deals with water quality, a 401 permit is needed.”
Saying the permit from the Army Corps of Engineers could take up to six weeks to obtain, Smith mentioned then another 30 days would be needed to “make the water project shovel ready.”
He also said the Piedmont water project is presently not on the 2020 budget for the Army Corps of Engineers, but, “It is not impossible to get on the budget for 2020, and we need some legislative intervention.”
Smith named several elected officials he has been in contact with, including U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Capito and U.S. representative David McKinley.
He said that if the Piedmont water project could be on the 2020 Army Corps of Engineers budget, they could fund up to 75 percent of the project.
Smith said that he had been in contact another time with Verso to investigate if there would be a possibility to arrange for an easement to allow Piedmont to have an intake in the deep side of the lake, right across from the Verso intake.
Commissioner Paul Coleman had also been in contact with Verso on another subject, and this time it is dealing with the former Piedmont High School building.
“If they (Verso) are not going to do anything with the school, it could be given back to the town,” Coleman said.
He said the building could be used for a recreation center, and, “It is limitless what we can do if we had our school back.”
Smith said that another use of the school could be a place to hold meetings and would be a place for the community children to play on the lawn.
“I want to get a conversation started on this subject,” Coleman said.
Smith said several months ago he too spoke to a person at Verso with similar type suggestions.
Smith added that the person he had contacted at Verso said that a future buyer of the paper mill may also want the school to be part of the purchase package.