PSD board member alleges Snowshoe cover-up

Durbin, W.Va. –

During its meeting Tuesday night at the Durbin Fire Hall, the Pocahontas Public Service District board reorganized officers – and made no changes. Tom Shipley remains chairman, David Litsey returns as secretary and Durbin water works manager Rick Barkley was reappointed as treasurer.

Before voting against Shipley as chairman, board member Amon Tracey had this to say.

“Yes, I’ll make a remark,” he said. “I don’t believe we have a competent person to be the chairman for the PSD board.”

Board attorney Chris Negley reported that the approval process at the state level for a $21.9 million sewage treatment system for the Snowshoe area was on track. The next significant event is a pre-design conference with PSD contract engineering company WWMI and state officials. Negley requested board approval for a contract modification to allow the engineer to proceed with Phase II – final engineering.

During discussion of the contract modification, wastewater manager Lloyd Coleman asked for inclusion of a study of defects in the Snowshoe Mountain collection system.

Board member David Litsey says a previous engineer did the study in 2008, before the transfer of Snowshoe sewage assets to the PSD.

“Thrasher Engineering testified before the county commission that they had conducted a $300,000 study and that there was about a half-million dollars worth of work to be done and Mr. Saffer said, ‘it sounds like a lot of work to me for a half-million dollars.’

“Well, now we can’t find the study.

“It gets back to the issue of what did you know and when did you know it and what did you represent to the Public Service Commission inspectors, when they came down and looked at whatever liabilities might accrue to the ratepayers in taking over the system under the transfer agreement.”

Litsey says problems with the Hawthorne Loop collection system need to be investigated as well.

“You know, Intrawest knew or should have known that that line was improperly installed – that if we do in fact dig up that line and demonstrate that – then it would trigger the clause in the transfer agreement to make that the responsibility of Snowshoe.

“That’s, theoretically, a $742,000 liability that doesn’t belong to us.

“And so, you know, it comes into the issue of ‘what did you know and when did you know it’ and how that information was made available to the Public Service Commission staff when they inspected.”

Litsey tells Shipley Snowshoe might have covered up defects in the system prior to the transfer.

“Quite frankly, Tom, it appears that they were very knowledgeable about what the liabilities were and that entered into their decision-making to dump the system,” he said. “And then everything that was, could be, conceivably, their liability just disappeared off the face of the Earth.”

The board approved the contract modification and will consult with state officials to determine if the additional studies are or can be included in the existing contract with WWMI.

In other business, the PSD board:

– approved a 3,500 expenditure to repair a bypass pump.
– tabled action on a $6,000 invoice from C.I. Thornburg for software services;
– hired law firm Steptoe and Johnson as bond counsel at a cost of $75,000, and;
– approved the barter of two scrap water filters for a garage door.

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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