Keyser City Council holds first reading to increase water resale rate for New Creek, McCoole
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - The Keyser City Council took the first step Wednesday in raising the resale water rate charged to the New Creek Water Association by 94 cents per thousand gallons.
Mayor Damon Tillman and members of council have spoken out several times in recent months about what they said was the unfairly small amount charged for the potable water, which is resold by the New Creek Water Association to its customers, and for treatment of the sewage discharged by New Creek and processed by Keyser.
Tillman had said at the time that Keyser water customers should be upset that they are paying $9.02 per thousand gallons for water, while the customers of the New Creek Water Association are only paying $3.27. Likewise, he said, Keyser sewer customers are paying $12.16, while New Creek customers are only playing $3.27.
The comments prompted letters to the council from both the New Creek Water Association and the New Creek Public Service District, in an attempt to clarify that the amount Tillman spoke about in October is the resale cost and not the total cost which New Creek customers pay and which is approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission based upon the cost of production, distribution, etc.
“These are two different rates,” the New Creek PSD board of directors said in a letter to the mayor and council, which was also printed in the News Tribune Thursday. “The City of Keyser rate is a resale rate. The PSC includes all costs associated with treatment, such as chemicals, electric, manpower, system maintenance, etc., to create the $12.16 rate for the City of Keyser.’
In addition, the letter pointed out that the consumption rate set by the PSC for New Creek customers - $12.81 - is actually more than what Keyser customers pay.
New Creek Water Association president Tom Cooper explained in another letter to the mayor and council that New Creek, once it purchases the water from Keyser, pays for all costs associated with distributing the water to it’s customers, and therefore the actual cost to New Creek customers is more than the original $3.27 cited by the Keyser officials.
“This includes pumping, electrical, storage, maintenance and administrative costs,” Cooper wrote. “NCWA rates are established by the same Public Service Commission standards as the city. All the costs including pumping, storage, maintenance and administrative are factored into delivering the water to the NCWA customer. The city does not bear any of these costs.”
Wednesday, Tillman publicly apologized for the misunderstanding, saying he misspoke at the Oct. 14 meeting.
“I apologize if I mislead anybody,” he said.
The city officials nevertheless feel an increase in the resale rate to New Creek is needed to help the City of Keyser keep its water and sewer systems afloat.
“I think what we’re preposing is justified,” Tillman said. “It’s not going to hurt anyone.”
Council member Jim Hannas said the slight rate increase would help ensure that “nobody in the City of Keyser is going to have to have a rate increase” at this time.
Newly-appointed city administrator Jeff Broadwater said he would be meeting soon with representatives of New Creek to discuss the proposed rate increase.
A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Dec. 9, and it must then go to the Public Service District for approval.
The increase will take affect 45 days after that approval is received.