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S.C. pursues funding for Lincoln County sewer project

By Amelia A. Pridemore

South Charleston officials envision growth and economic development with its planned $20 million sewer extension into Lincoln County -- but they must find a way to pay for it.

Mayor Frank Mullens updated city council members on the project, still in its "infancy stages," Thursday night at their regular meeting. Besides meeting with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to get its approval, city officials have met with representatives from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's office and others to find possible ways to fund the project.

The city has been working with the Lincoln County Commission and Lincoln County Public Service Commission to extend city sewer service to about 500 customers in the Alum Creek area.

Once sewer lines cross the Kanawha County line, more customers in Kanawha County can be picked up, as well. That would bring in an additional 500 customers. The city's sewer plant can handle the extra flow.

South Charleston has received two project cost estimates for the project. The first, which takes in the most customers, would be $20 million. The second, which only picks up Alum Creek, would cost $16 million.

The Alum Creek area has water service from West Virginia American Water, but it has no sewer service.

Mullens said neither South Charleston nor Lincoln County can fully fund the project on its own, and outside funding is a necessity. The city could pursue two angles in the funding search -- environmental improvement and economic development.

The project is environmentally friendly, he said, because it eliminates hazards from old septic tanks. It could also reduce contamination in the Coal River. It promotes economic development because businesses want proper infrastructure in place before they relocate to an area.

Other funding search logistics must be worked out even before asking for money. Right now, the city only has an estimate for the projects, Mullens said. It will need an exact cost. Because two entities are involved, they must decide whether they will jointly or separately apply for funding.

"There are so many logistics to work out that must be worked out," Mullens said. "If you go asking for money, you need to know what the heck is going on."

If the city is to grow, Mullens said, the logical place for it to grow is along Corridor G, possibly to the Lincoln County line. However, this must be done in "baby steps." Otherwise, the city will spread itself too thin, and the services it provides will be adversely affected.

"It would be easy to say we're fine, because we are, but you have to have vision to grow," he said. "This project is all about that."

In other matters:

* Mullens expressed concern about the state's fire and police pension boards' speed in completing necessary paperwork that must be done before the city can draw funds from both. He estimated the city receives $300,000 per year, per pension plan.

* Mullens said a proposed automatic fire mutual aid agreement with Dunbar would be on the Feb. 21 council meeting agenda. This would mean both cities' fire departments would respond immediately if one is called to a structure fire or other major incident. Dunbar council members approved the agreement Monday.





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