By Lyra Bordelon
The Ronceverte City Council was joined by the sound of emergency responders rushing to two accidents in Ronceverte and another near Organ Cave during it’s Monday, Oct. 5, meeting. Councilmembers reminded the public of a book reading and signing coming up, continued work on the water project, announced Halloween times, and more.
A book signing is coming to Ronceverte – “Stocking of Joy” author Pat Echols Saunders is coming to the Edgarton Inn to read her, and the city’s, story of tradition.
“The book is the story of … children receiving their stocking, which is a tradition in Ronceverte,” explained Councilmember Kathy King. “Any child who stood in line to get a stock, from 1926 to 2006, got the whole hoopla for doing that. It still continues, but not in the grand format it used to be in, but it brings back a lot of memories when you read the book. The artist did all the illustrations, it’s all centered around Ronceverte, and it’s a very good story to hand down to your children.”
Set for October 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the event is hosted by the Edgarton Inn and sponsored by the Ronceverte Public Library. King noted that she still had some books available to purchase, costing $20, but more would be available the day of the signing. Noting that Echols is the sister of former city administrator Reba Mohler, King opened the event for the public to bring the kids.
“For those of us that grew up with this, it is a neat, neat book,” said Mayor David Smith. “The illustrations are phenomenal. It’ll bring a tear to your eye.”
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Council passed the third and final reading for the bond ordinance for the city’s ongoing water infrastructure project was passed by city council, keeping the project moving forward.
“I always like the word final,” joked King.
Two more resolutions related to the water project are expected in the future, explained attorney John Stump, the attorney working with the city on the project.
The water project began after the state required the city to begin a massive infrastructure update, attempt to replace pipes that are over 100 years old and curtailing an extremely high water loss rate.
“Right now, as high as the water loss is, you’re probably buying four gallons from Lewisburg and selling 1 [gallon],” Bob Hazelwood, a representative of E.L. Robinson.
Water rates increased in Ronceverte multiple times in 2019 in order to finance the project, both before and after Lewisburg decided to move forward on their own water infrastructure improvements. Because Ronceverte buys water from Lewisburg, that increase also affected the Ronceverte rates.
“There are 371 utilities in the state, and right at this point in time Ronceverte has the highest water bill in the state for 3,400 gallons,” said Hazelwood.
“The 3,400 gallon is important because there are communities that have higher minimums than we have,” Smith said.
The city is also requesting a $500,000 grant in order to supplement the water project bond. The infrastructure council is expected to make a decision on that request in November.
In other business:
• Halloween in Ronceverte is currently planned from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31. If a resident wants to participate, simply leave your lights on. Smith and the council recommended trick or treating with mostly family or close friends in order to reduce potential contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• The mayor, recorder, and the city administrator were approved to be signers for checks and documents with Premier Bank for the city.
• The bidding process has begun for work on a line that passes under the railroad tracks. The bids will be opened on November 4. This work would replace a main line under a septic system, where the present line gets smaller, causing water backup.
• The city is applying for some of the $25 million of CARES Act money expected to be released by Governor Jim Justice to pay unpaid utility bills for the residents of Ronceverte.
• Ongoing work on the city’s audit process with Imre Pentek was reviewed, with the 2017/2018 preparation complete. Water and sewer depreciation has been completed, with work on the street department beginning. Smith explained the city “previously were given a finding by the firm for not having these, so [this] is a much better situation.”
• The city’s 2018/2019 audit is finished with two main findings. Issues with street department depreciation were found, and are expected to be taken care of in the future thanks to the work with Imre Pentek. In addition, one finding highlighted the police department being over budget, but this is expected to be curbed through the efforts of Chief Jerry Hopkins.