The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 17, 2013

Lewisburg mayor issues annual report

By Tina Alvey
Register-Herald Reporter

LEWISBURG — Unveiling the city’s annual report, Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester summarized, “We did have a good year.”

That assertion was borne out in the report, which included three pages of accomplishments, including projects involving the replacement of all 4,887 of the Lewisburg system’s water meters, paving and sidewalk construction and expansion of the city’s central green space.

“Local government is the form of government that is closest to the people and provides the tangible services that are important to the quality of life we enjoy on a daily basis,” Manchester wrote in the printed report’s introduction.

“Our police and fire officers keep us safe, public works employees plow our streets and maintain our parks, others pick up our recyclable at the curb, four water plant operators work around the clock to provide us clean drinking water, other water department workers fix the leaks to keep that water coming to our households, and support staffers at city hall and other facilities... keep it all running smoothly.”

Balancing out the extensive inventory of the city’s accomplishments in 2012 was a much shorter list of the major challenges still facing Lewisburg. Replacing Fire Station No. 1, addressing the dilapidated condition of the Fort Savannah property and continuing to make major improvements at the water treatment plant and the water distribution system comprise the list of challenges.

Plans for an upgraded water plant are well under way, as City Council approved the second of three readings of an ordinance Tuesday evening authorizing the issuance of not more than $3.5 million in bonds to finance the project.

Bond counsel John Stump advised council members that he expects the interest rate to be below 4 percent when proposals for financing go out on the water project, but cautioned the endeavor is waiting for approval from the state Public Service Commission (PSC).

“We are hopeful and fairly confident... that we will get a favorable ruling from the administrative law judge,” Stump said.

Council will conduct the third and final reading of the ordinance, along with a public hearing, on Feb. 19.

The city’s consulting engineers, Chapman Technical Group, are already preparing for the project by contacting the power company to share information regarding the new facility’s electrical needs and looking at various cost-saving strategies, according to the firm’s Kennon Chambers and Jeff Ekstrom.

Asked for a projected timetable for the project, Chambers estimated the city is still more than a year away from the start of construction on the new plant. He said the PSC will probably take as much as 9 months to move through the regulatory process, particularly if a protest is filed against the project as expected.

His best guess, Chambers said, is that the new plant will be in operation around the middle of 2015.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com