No Easy Answers To Pocahontas PSD Financial Woes

Durbin, WV – The Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board is facing serious economic challenges. The PSD board worked on its budget during its regular meeting at the Durbin Fire Hall on Tuesday night. Treasurer Ricky Barkley tells the board he forecasts a deficit of $50,000 for the wastewater branch by June.

“There is no money in here, for people,” he said. “If we pay what bills we got now and pay what bills are projected, such as labor, electric and just general operations, we’re still showing a loss of $48,000 at the end of June.”

Board member David Litsey suggested getting a line of credit, based on funding potential for a planned sewage project. Barkley tells Litsey that’s not an option.

“I’ve talked with First Citizens Bank about a line of credit,” he said. “They won’t give a line of credit. Most banks will not give a line of credit unless you’ve got an asset, such as a building or property, that you can put up against that line of credit.”

Board president Tom Shipley suggested revising the existing budget to balance the account. Wastewater manger Lloyd Coleman tells Shipley that won’t fix the shortfall.

“You can’t fix it with the budget,” he said. “You’re spending more money than you’re taking in. The budget done a different way isn’t going to fix it.”

Coleman says the only way he can reduce spending is to cut his workforce.

“We quit any discretionary spending months ago,” he said. “They only place I have left to cut expenses is labor, or don’t treat the waste.

Board member Amon Tracey, who has consistently stressed fiscal discipline since his appointment to the board, decries the utility’s financial condition.

“I think it’s a damn shame that – the three of us sitting here – we had $740,000 in the bank the bank, a year ago and now we’re wondering how we’re going to pay our electric bill.”

Barkley recommended consulting accountant Michael Griffith to help work through the financial mess. Board chairman Tom Shipley says the board will hold a work session to discuss its options.

“One of the things we can do in a work session – we’ll do a lot of things – is, we’ll talk about possibly engaging Mr. Griffith to work through this with us,” he said. “Also, we’ll talk about going through some of these bills that are project-related and talk to the people that invoiced us and ask if they might agree to defer payment on some of those.”

Shipley said he would schedule a work session and special meeting to continue work on the budget.

W.D. Smith, executive director of Region IV, Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, informed the board that a miscalculation in Durbin water upgrade project paperwork will reduce leftover project funds by approximately $16,000. Smith says project engineer Randy Watson, of Thrasher Engineering, is responsible for the mistake.

“I’ll say the engineer made an error and, possibly, Region IV made an error to begin with,” he said. “It was sort of a comedy of errors, if you will.”

As a result of less leftover money, the water utility will be able to purchase only 145 touch-read water meters, rather than the planned 262. After Barkley questioned numbers in an updated change order, that Smith had prepared, the director decided to review the project funding further and report to the board next month.

Board attorney Chris Negley told the board that an application to build a $19.4 million wastewater system for the Snowshoe area had been submitted to the PSC and DEP on February 27. The attorney said the next step in the planning process would be a comment letter from the agencies, which could be received as early as next month.

The proposed system incorporates a sequencing batch reactor plant at Snowshoe Village and a membrane biological reactor plant on Hawthorne Loop Road near Linwood.
The board conducted an executive session to discuss the purchase of right-of-ways for the project, but took no action.

The next regular meeting of the Pocahontas PSD board is scheduled for April 24, location to be announced.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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