By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
PIEDMONT - Hooking up to Westernport’s water supply seems the only feasible option for the Town of Piedmont to be able to continue to provide water for its residents, according to commissioner Greg Harvey.
For years the Luke mill has pumped water into Piedmont via a pipeline across the wooden bridge which links the mill property to the town, but when current mill owners Verso shuttered the mill a year ago, officials told the town they would no longer pump the water as of July 18.
"They want the entire mill black by the end of July," Harvey said Wednesday during the Piedmont City Council meeting. "They want everything shut down."
Harvey presented a Powerpoint Wednesday on the various options which town officials have been exploring, but said one of those options - purchasing water from Westernport - was the only viable scenario.
According to Harvey, Verso will split the cost of hooking up to Westernport with the $1.5 million grant which Piedmont is slated to receive from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
"The cost is $1.9 million," he said, explaining that the new water line would come off Maryland Avenue in Westernport and cross the Potomac River into Piedmont.
"It would be a six-inch line, and no pumps are needed," he said.
According to Harvey, Piedmont has 271 water customers, and Piedmont would be paying Westernport approximately $7,000 for the water to serve them.
Harvey explained that the proposed water rate increase which is currently under review by the Public Service Commission and will be the subject of a hearing in July has nothing to do with where Piedmont will be receiving its water.
"You will pay no more for Westernport water than Westernport pays," he told the small crowd gathered for Wednesday’s meeting.
"They can’t raise our rates unless they raise their own rates. I don’t think I can ask for anything more than that.
"I think we’re doing what’s best for you guys in order to guarantee water for you guys," he said.
Harvey said Piedmont officials have discussed the proposition with the Region 8 Planning and Development Council, West Virginia DHHR, and the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council (IJDC), and "they all said Westernport is the best option."