At Ronceverte’s City Council meeting Monday evening, Dunn Engineering consultant Eric Hartwell reported on impressive developments underway at the new wastewater treatment plant on the banks of the Greenbrier River, despite being two months behind schedule.
Hartwell also addressed concerns on the report that Lewisburg’s water system had recently tested positive for the chemical Chromium 6.
“This is the same heavy metal that made Erin Brocovich famous,” Hartwell said.
According to the EPA, the maximum contamination level for Chromium is 100 parts per billion. The highest test result in the Lewisburg water system is 0.079 parts per billion, which is less than one tenth of one part per billion and just above the minimum detection level of 0.03 parts per billion. Anything lower is considered undetectable.
Lewisburg’s water, which is piped to Ronceverte, is not above the limit the EPA has set, which the Dunn engineers are confident it does not pose a health risk for residents.
“Chromium is out there, it occurs naturally, but it also can be produced from burning coal as a chemical reaction.” Hartwell said.
In other business:
• A vacant structures ordinance, read by City Administrator Reba Mohler, will allow city officials to monitor vacant buildings for violations, such as fire hazards, occupancy by transients, safety and public health issues. If any of these violations are present, the owner of the building must register for a vacant structure permit at no charge for the first year. If by the following year, there are no improvements made to the structure, a fee of $200 will be charged, and each year thereafter, if no improvements are made, the fee will double.
Mayor David Smith said he has heard encouraging reports from other West Virginia towns, including Lewisburg, that have adopted this ordinance to rid their towns of vacant, unmaintained buildings.
Council member Barbara Morgan, sounding skeptical, said she has found property owners often pay the fees but still don’t do anything to repair the buildings.
“This ordinance will give us some teeth to be able to do something,” Smith said, referring to the fees charged after one year. “Plus, we’ll build up some funds.” The second reading and public hearing will be presented at the next council meeting set for Nov. 7.
• This month Ronceverte water residents received a newsletter with their water bill, in which it was noted that the city has received and benefited from over $700,000 in grant funds in the past several years, not including a $9,200,000 grant for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The list of improvements include new sidewalks, planters, benches and lampposts in the downtown district, cemetery repairs, Island Park project planning, and improvements to the Clifford Community Center. Grant funding is a vital resource for the city, allowing for improvements to benefit residents and visitors alike. Grant consultant Doug Hylton is to be commended for his efforts in securing these grants for the city.
• Smith announced that Ronceverte Municipal Court Judge Ken Gazaway has opted to step down from his post due to illness. Council approved replacing him with Pam Mentz, who has been serving the city as assistant judge. Gary “Peanut” Bland was approved to fill the assistant judge position.
• “Thank you, Lewisburg,” was overheard in the council chambers, referring to the gift of a street sweeper donated to Ronceverte by the city of Lewisburg.
• A fundraiser has been established to replace the River City’s outdoor Christmas lights, lost in the June 23 flood. The goal is $25,000. Tax deductible donations can be mailed to Ronceverte Development Corp., 300 Main Street, West, Ronceverte, WV 24970.
• Halloween is right around the corner, and Ronceverte residents will be observing Trick or Treat from 6-8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31, for all participating houses with their porch lights on.
In preparation for the fall holiday, the “Get Your Ghoul On” Lamppost Decorating Contest is now under way. Prizes will be offered for most creative, most original and most scary. All decorations must be up by Oct. 12. For information and registration, call Tammy, program manager for Ronceverte Development-Main Street at 304-647-3140.