By Sarah Mansheim
As of last Monday night’s city council meeting, some Ronceverte residents were still without water. Ronceverte Water Operator Steve Williams reported to council that there were people in the Briar Hill area of the town who were still without running water since the Friday, Jan. 23, diesel tanker wreck that leaked about 4,000 gallons of fuel into an Anthony Creek tributary.
According to Williams, Ronceverte’s water tanks must have a certain amount of water in them in order for there to be enough pressure to get the pumps to run, and as of Monday night’s meeting, there wasn’t yet enough water pressure to bring Briar Hill online. Williams stated he thought the neighborhood should have running water by Wednesday or Thursday, and as of press time, he said he expects full water service in the city and an end to Ronceverte’s boil water advisory.
Williams told council that Ronceverte’s water plant typically pumps in about 400 gallons per minute, and as of Monday night, it was pumping that amount. He noted the city initially had trouble getting to that amount last week thanks to two water pipe leaks and then a fire within city limits, which took even more water from the struggling system. Williams noted that during the fire, which occurred on Jan. 30, the city of Lewisburg opened the valves to allow 1,000 gallons of water per minute into Ronceverte, bringing extra water into the fire hydrant located in front of the burning house on Greenbrier Avenue. Between the busted pipes and the structure fire, Williams said the city lost about 600,000 gallons of water.
By Monday, he said, even though Ronceverte residents were under a conservation advisory, city water use had tripled as citizens caught up on their laundry and other housekeeping.
Mayor David Smith commended Williams and other city employees for their help during the water outage. “The employees’ and volunteers’ help has been tremendous,” he said, calling the outpouring of support “phenomenal.” Regarding the fire, Smith commended the cooperation between all of the municipal fire departments and city officials, who planned and worked together to make sure emergency services were not compromised during the water crisis. Firefighters from Fairlea, Union and Lewisburg joined the Ronceverte Fire Department to fight the fire. Despite their efforts, the house was a total loss.
In other business, council passed the second reading of Ordinance 2015-01 regarding the annexation of 33.908 acres near Ronceverte Elementary School. Before the vote, Councilmember Adam Rosin expressed his concern that annexing land on the outskirts of town goes against the town’s recently adopted comprehensive plan, which calls for more investment into Ronceverte’s downtown and midtown areas.
Rosin said he worried that the city’s infrastructure cannot handle more outlying areas, and he also questioned how the property would be zoned.
Smith replied that any infrastructure development in the new area would be paid for by the developers.
“What is the benefit of annexing?” asked Rosin.
“Taxes,” stated Smith, meaning development in city limits brings property tax income to the city. Smith said the area is zoned residential, and he did not expect that to change. The ordinance passed with Rosin opposing the measure.
Also, during the meeting, council voted to rebid the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. Just last month, it was announced that Orders Construction out of St. Albans had submitted the lowest bid on the project, but according to City Administrator Reba Mohler, there was concern by the Department of Environmental Protection that some of the specs in the plant’s design were unclear, and that contractors were not sure just what they were bidding on. This lead to two bidders interpreting the plans in two different ways, she said. The bids will be advertised on Feb. 23, and they will open on Mar. 3.
Ronceverte City Council will meet again in regular session on Monday, Mar. 2 at 7 p.m.