SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Frank Mullens heaped praise on city workers and volunteers for their efforts during the ongoing water crisis.
Mullens told City Council Thursday evening that when West Virginia American Water CO. issued the do-not-use order on Jan. 9, "we immediately got in line to be a place for water distribution. We set up at the Community Center."
When the water supply there ran out, distribution was moved to the Gestamp parking lot.
Mullens said the move was made because of the heavy traffic on Jefferson Street, where the Community Center is located. The Gestamp location "worked wonderful," he said. The do-not-use order was lifted for South Charleston earlier this week.
The water distribution center at Gestamp closed at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
"We volunteered to keep it open as long as we could," he said. "It was a great effort by our people.
"They say you're not judged by what's planned but by what's unplanned. I think they did a wonderful job.
"We have a lot of folks to thank," Mullens said. "We thank Gestamp, for use of their parking lot and loading dock. Some of their employees helped out. We thank St. Albans Municipal Water-they gave us water for the water buffalos.
We thank Big Lots, Abbotts Wrecker; Leonards; UPS; AEP River Operations; Soul Harvest Church; Allison and Frank McMullen; and Aqua Philadelphia, which sent a bulk water truck."
Also, "the Red Cross, which brought food and drinks; St. Albans McDonalds; Bob Evans; Krispy Creme; Qdoba; Tamara Clay; John Cantrell; Frank McMillion; Edward Reed; Tonya Dunlap; Stephanie Keen; Gary Scott; Councilman Kent Rymer; John Lucas; John Taylor IV; Rick Gobel; Crista Black and son; and Robin Sibold. There were more volunteers. I didn't get everyone's name but we thank them all."
Mullens said Police Chief Brad Rinehart "was there nearly every minute of every day and probably loaded more bottled water in cars than anyone."
Fire Chief John Taylor said, "I think everybody pulled together and did a fantastic job." He said one person timed how long it took to go through the water distribution center. "They said the turnaround time was 45 seconds," he said.
Mullens said the South Charleston Sanitary Board's wastewater treatment plant operated throughout the water emergency and is providing the services for which customers are billed.
"I've had one or two people ask what we're going to do about the sanitary board bill," he said. "We're talking about that. Everyone's looking for any relief they can get.
"We are governed by the (state) Public Service Commission. State law says we have to charge for what the usage is. If the PSC gives us options, we'll look at that. We'll consider credits if the law will allow us to do so."
Sanitary Board Director Steve DeBarr said he told his contact at the PSC "it would be nice if they would take the lead and tell us what to do." The PSC was to have a meeting Thursday or today, he said.
DeBarr said that even though West Virginia American Water has said the water in South Charleston is safe, "At my house, we're going to drink bottled water for a while. I'd just like to run it through and get that level lower. That's a personal choice. It's not that I think it is unsafe."
Recreation Director Arnett Hoston said the Community Center pool has been refilled. "We're working to get the chemicals and temperature at the right level," he said. "We're looking at opening it Saturday or Sunday. Everything else is open."
Mullens also gave council a report on his Jan. 10 meeting with representatives of the U.S. Postal Service.
In October Mullens said that the incorrect addressing of South Charleston mail with "Charleston" had become a serious issue. That's when residents brought to his attention the fact that some retailers, including Target, were charging Charleston's half-percent sales tax, even though Target is in South Charleston. Mullens has said he is convinced the problem is with the Postal Service's software code.
Last week's meeting was a result of a letter Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito wrote on Nov. 6 to U.S. Postmaster Patrick Donahoe. The letter asked Donahoe to take immediate corrective action.
"They (the Postal Service) want us to give them the address of every house and building in South Charleston," Mullens said. "Charleston is doing the same thing. They said that when they put it all in their system, it will be OK."
However, there apparently is more than one source for addresses, "which could be part of the problem," Mullens said.
"My take is that once we do this, it will be a step in the right direction. Will it solve our problem? I don't know. We'll see. You've got corporate America out there entering addresses. I think it's going to take a while."
Mullens said he was told a similar problem has occurred in other states.
City Finance Director Hanna Pettitt, who also attended the meeting, said that if South Charleston has an address listed as South Charleston but the Postal Service says it is in Charleston, "the Postal Service will send you a survey asking, 'Which do you want?'"
Mullens said, "It's not just about getting addresses correct." It's also about the community's identity. He promised to keep pressing for a solution.
Council's next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at City Hall on D Street.