BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Tuesday’s Regular Session of the Raleigh County Commission persisted beyond its usual succinct run-time, as the Public Participation portion of the meeting comprised well over half of the proceedings.
Following standard fare such as approval of new employees, grants, and considerations, the point of discussion quickly shifted to the ongoing water situation impacting residents throughout the Raleigh County area.
Two county residents partook in the Public Participation portion of the proceedings; one with water service and one without. Both individuals echoed similar sentiments to those which have been offered by customers throughout the area for over a week, those generally being calls for transparency and answers from those responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the water service.
The first individual disclosed that he had called early on during the situation about problems with a water line on his property. Following a number of unsuccessful phone calls in an attempt to obtain guidance on how to proceed, the resident says he was instructed to show up to the meeting of the county commission and complain.
“I have attended all the meetings and conference calls we’ve had with Beckley Water. It was my understanding that everything went through EOC (Emergency Operations Center,)” said Commission President Dave Tolliver in response.
“The Raleigh County Commission has no control over Beckley Water, the Public Service district and so forth.” The latter assertion would be one to which the Commission President would frequently return throughout the session, with very little ultimately having been presented in terms of clarification.
In fairness to Tolliver, a public figure to whom many expectant county residents have turned to for reassurance in this situation, local government officials are almost certainly limited in their leverage over utility providers, particularly ones such as Beckley Water Company which are privately owned.
Reiterating that the county commission contributed thousands of dollars in bottled water in an effort to combat the ongoing shortage, the Commission President advised that the resident should’ve gotten in touch with the Raleigh County Service Public District before offering a disheartening “I don’t know what to tell you.”
Indeed, this is the last thing the increasingly frustrated residents of the county were hoping to hear, even if it is an assertion based in truth. Commissioner Greg Duckworth opined that the dispatcher the resident spoke with should have directed them to the daily 10:00 AM conference call meetings in which such issues were discussed.
“Why did it take two days to shut the car washes down?,” queried the participant; a valid question, as just after Christmas Day when the severity of these issues were truly beginning to come to light, residents with water service were being asked to closely monitor and limit their own water usage while fully operational car washes dumping gallons of water were being utilized in plain site throughout the Beckley area.
At various points throughout Tuesday’s meeting Tolliver alluded to an ongoing project at the Maple Meadow Mine in the Glen Daniel area which could potentially be the site of a new Raleigh County water plant in the future.
The site, which is said to have set the commission back some $500,000 thus far, will purportedly allot a flexibility in utility dealings as they currently pertain to Beckley Water Company.
“We’ve been working on a new plant for the Glen Daniel area for two years [and have] designated half a million dollars to this project,” Tolliver said.
“We won’t have to worry about Beckley Water choking us down to 200 gallons per minute. I want it on record that we’re working on it,” he continued. “We knew that there was a problem down there two years ago. That’s why the county commission agreed to put up half a million dollars to ensure there wasn’t a problem again.”
While customer frustration at the situation is beyond valid, the pressure felt by the commission to rectify the monumental state of things presently is apparent.
“We have control over Beckley Water Company,” Tolliver declared. “We’re trying. We’ve already [given] out 61 pallets of water in Sophia and Trap Hill; Ghent has taken 8 pallets; each pallet you’re looking at 70 to 80 cases of water.”
“We have been trying to get fish and wildlife to sign off on the sewer project for Eccles and Harper for eleven months so we could give those people sewer,” he continued. “We got in touch with Senator Capito, we got in touch with Manchin – sewer and water projects, I don’t care, it takes 3-4 years to do.”
A second participant in the Public Participation portion of the meeting explained that he and his wife – both seniors – woke up on December 26 with no water. Upon calling the plant, the individual was told that the outage was the result of a broken line. However, when service remained non-existent the following day, the individual’s wife is said to have called and was told that the outage was due to an empty water tank.
Therein lies the frustration of many county residents: not necessarily that there is a utility issue or that said issue has, at this point, spanned over a week – it is in that residents feel as though they can’t get a direct answer regarding an essential component of their lives and to the lives of their families.
“After everybody gets water back. We’re gonna have, I guess you could call it a blue ribbon committee,” said Tolliver near the meeting’s end, proposing that all entities involved convene to determine a solution for the issue going forward.
“We’re gonna have a critique on what exactly happened, what can be prevented, [and] what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It will be a public meeting, hopefully on the second floor of the courthouse in the courtroom up there. But we’re going to set up a meeting and get everyone involved. We’re going to get everyone there face to face to figure out what happened. We’re going to invite everybody and their brother.”
“As far as the Raleigh County Commission, we’re doing everything that we can do,” he reiterated. “As of right now, we are constricted. Beckley Water constricts how much water they give us.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Raleigh County Commission is set to occur on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 10:00 AM in the Raleigh County Commission Chamber.
Additional LOOTPRESS coverage of the Raleigh County area can be found here.