Pocahontas PSD Member Questions Consultant Bill
Durbin, WV – At the Pocahontas County Public Service District meeting Tuesday night, PSD member Amon Tracey wanted to know who on the PSD board authorized $22,000.00 worth of consultation services from engineer David Rigby for the month of November.
PSD Chairman Tom Shipley explained that Mr. Rigby was hired as a consultant by PSD attorney Chris Negley. Rigby was asked to review documents pertaining to the regional sewer project, so that he could advise the PSD at a status conference before the West Virginia Public Service Commission, held in late November. Rigby’s itemized bill shows 77 hours of work in November at a cost of $285.00 per hour.
Tracey says he understands why Rigby was hired as a consultant, but is uncomfortable that the board didn’t have a say in approving such a large expenditure. PSD member David Litsey says Rigby’s fee is a far cry from that charged by other consultants.
“Mr. Melick is quoted in the Charleston Gazette as stating that he prefers consultants that cost $745.00 an hour” says Litsey “and I’m sure that is what he has in mind if he’s able to take us over.”
Litsey is referring to John Philip Melick, an attorney with Jackson Kelly PLLC, the law firm representing Snowshoe Mountain Resort and five individuals who filed a case with the WV PSC to push for construction of the Linwood regional sewer plant. The PSD board discarded that plan in late 2010. A hearing before the PSC in that case is scheduled for February 9th. A motion to accept Rigby’s bill, along with other billing, was approved with Tracey abstaining from the vote.
In other business, David Litsey asked his fellow board members to consider a few suggestions for PSD employee compensation. The first is a Cost of Living Adjustment or COLA. Water manager Ricky Barkley says that while there may be sufficient revenue to give a COLA to sewer employees, it would be considerably more difficult to do so for the water plant employees, and could result in higher water rates for customers.
Litseys’ second idea is that whoever oversees upcoming water and sewer projects should be compensated for the extra time and effort needed to oversee such complicated projects. In a similar vein, he also suggests that the PSD board could offer employees a bonus when there are no violations found during an inspection.
“I’d like to look at a mechanism that says meeting all NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permits is our absolute expectation” says Litsey. “And we recognize that it’s going to take an incredible amount of dedication, effort and teamwork. And if we do, for each month December [through] March or April, that for each plant, we make $1000.00 eligible to be split among the employees.”
Litsey says American Water Company, serving customers throughout West Virginia, incorporates this kind of bonus into their water rate structure. He says he also has support for the idea from the Snowshoe Property Owners Council. Amon Tracey questions why employees should be paid extra for doing what is essentially their job in the first place. PSD Chairman Tom Shipley says that’s a good point and suggested that all three ideas need further discussion.
The PSD did approve an Inter-Utility agreement between the PSD and the Cheat Mountain Water Company. And the board scheduled a special meeting on Feb 3rd at the Snowshoe sewer office to do the bond closing for the Durbin Water project.