BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– Raleigh County Commission is asking citizens in the county to call the Commission office with any complaints about their stormwater service, but the manager of Beckley Sanitary Board said that a recent rate increase will benefit everyone.
Raleigh Commission President Dave Tolliver made the request for information during the regular Commission meeting Tuesday.
The county has a lawsuit pending in Raleigh Circuit Court against the sanitary board and the City of Beckley due to a rate increase for stormwater service.
In April, the City of Beckley approved a raise to stormwater rates for Beckley Sanitary Board customers. Most of the customers live in city limits, which means the City of Beckley is their governing authority.
The sanitary board also provides stormwater services to some who live outside of town limits, although county officials did not immediately have the number of impacted county residents on Tuesday.
The county customers are governed by the Raleigh Commission, and county attorney Bill Roop said that is why the county filed the suit.
“We’re asking the Circuit Court to rule that outside of the City of Beckley, the Beckley Sanitary Board does not have authority to charge citizens of Raleigh County,” said Roop.
Roop questioned if City Council could use previously established ordinances which were meant to govern the city in order to increase rates for county residents who pay stormwater taxes.
The rate increase for residential customers is $3.66 a month. It raises the rate of $3.75, which the city had approved in 2007, to $7.41 a month.
Another increase that Council approved, which is for sewer rates, applies only to residents of Beckley.
Beckley Sanitary Board manager Jeremiah Johnson declined to comment Tuesday on the pending litigation.
But he says the rate increase will fund a backlog of about 60 projects, including the Hartley-Little League-Pinecrest project. The residents around the Hartley Street area say their houses have been flooding for at least 50 years.
He said that around $9 million in infrastructure will be added, due to the increase, and that those in the region will benefit.
One Hager Street resident said Tuesday that he is in favor of the Hartley project, which will benefit his neighborhood, Pinecrest Industrial area and the commercial area near the Beckley Little League field and a new car lot.
“It’s always a lot of flooding. And one apartment floods. And another apartment floods,” said Carlos Davis, who lives in the Hager Apartments. “It’s really hard to get some help out here and you know it’s always a water problem.”
Davis said it is common for roadways to become flooded after a hard rain.
County officials say the Hartley project will stall operations at the Beckley Little League field and that the county is looking to find a place for Beckley and Shady Spring Little League teams to play.
They also said that county residents should not be required to pay for a project that only benefits those in city limits.
Johnson said many benefit from stormwater projects and that municipal boundaries do not determine stormwater service areas.
“While this construction often involves improvements to underground systems which are mostly unseen, each project will improve neighborhoods, protect our natural resources, safeguard public health, and benefit quality of life in our community.”