The Town of Meadow Bridge will seek United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding for a water system improvements and expansion project.
During a town public meeting Monday evening, Michael Stone, a project engineer with Thrasher, explained the project.
According to Stone, the project would add approximately 145 customers to the town's system with the installation of 5.8 miles of new distribution line, along with the replacement of 4.2 miles of existing distribution line.
Those new customers will be along W.Va. Rt. 20 south of Meadow Bridge, on Patterson Mountain Road and on Lockbridge Road.
A new line will also extend north and allow for an emergency interconnection between the town's system and water lines from the Danese Public Service District.
"That way if there is an emergency and something were to happen with the town's water supply or water system, that would be an option to be able to restore and maintain water service," Stone said.
Along with the new lines, the project includes a 100,000-gallon water storage tank, a master meter, a 20-gallon-per-minute booster pump station, 145 residential meters, 49 fire hydrants, five flushing hydrants, 64 gate valves and the drilling of a new source well.
The town's aging water system has been beleaguered for some time. The town had to temporarily cut service in early 2018 because the town's tank was dangerously low due to a combination of problems with the system's water source, the pumps that retrieve the water and the piping that connects the town's customers with the water source.
During a Fayette County Commission meeting in January 2018, Meadow Bridge Mayor Bonnie Hicks told the commissioners that the town's system had a water loss rate of approximately 50 percent.
According to Stone, the project will cost just under $4.5 million. The town will seek grant and loan funds from the USDA.
Stone said if the project's application is accepted this year, Thrasher expects to complete the final design work in September. The project would go out for bid in July 2020, and construction would begin near the end of that year. Project completion would be estimated for the end of 2021.
If the application isn't approved for this year's cycle, the town and Thrasher would have to consult further and reapply next year.
"It's a bit of a lengthy process to get it designed and get all the permits and approvals required for it, but we at Thrasher strive to stay on schedule and drive projects rather than letting them drive us," Stone said.
The town was forced to increase the price of service in order to qualify for the loans and grants being sought.
Happening in three phases, with the second phase going into effect with the new year and the third going in effect upon completion, Stone said the average bill would increase approximately $5 across the phases.
Stone told the audience that a state average of 3,400 gallons per month consumed by a household was used to calculate the increase — the Phase One cost would be $25.16, increasing to $28.46 during Phase Two and $30.65 during Phase Three.
In deciding where to extend water service, the engineer said they needed to bring as many new customers into the water system as possible with the least amount of work. He said this would increase the probability of being awarded the USDA funds, and would lessen the cost for existing customers as the water system pays back the loan portions of the project.
"It's a balancing act of getting the existing customers and the existing water system taken care of, but we can limit those rate impacts by extending service and having additional customers pay for that cost," Stone said.
Hicks said she believes while the condition of the system's pipe has impacted the taste of the water, she believes that at its source, the water is some of the best around. She said she is most excited to get a new well drilled.
While remaining wary of celebrating the project, Hicks is excited for the possibility.
"I'm just going to stay optimistic that it works out this year," Hicks said.
According to Stone, he is expecting to hear back about the fate of the grant and loan proposal by the end of the month.
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