Council talks MUB water line, bids farewell to Wallace

Tuesday marked the eighth public meeting since May 3 in which the Morgantown Utility Board discussed its plans regarding the placement of a new raw-water pipeline through or around White Park.

The meeting also marked the end of 3rd Ward Councilor Ryan Wallace’s tenure on council. Wallace did not seek re-election in April, explaining that a family move was immanent. He announced Tuesday that he will not be in attendance at the June 18th meeting — the last of this council — as he and his family are leaving for Canada today.

During council’s May 21 meeting, Wallace called for an investigation of the city’s handling of the privatization of the city attorney position — specifically that enacting such a change through the budget process may have constituted a charter violation and that the attorney’s participation in the process was potentially improper.

Wallace reached out to the West Virginia Ethics Commission regarding his concerns and has received a response. He didn’t mention the ethics commission’s opinion during the meeting and didn’t wish to comment on it after the meeting.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting once again centered around MUB’s need to connect a pipe from the secondary water source reservoir currently under construction and its water treatment facility on Don Knotts Boulevard — and whether that pipe will run through or around White Park.

MUB received immediate backlash at the end of April after marking a number of trees along White Park’s main trail for removal in order to lay the water line. The route would have led to the removal of many old-growth trees. That route has since been abandoned.

After an extensive, albeit condensed, public dialogue period, MUB General Manager Tim Ball said two of the eight potential alternate routes have come to the fore — both of which would place the pipe on the Green Bag Road side of White Park, south of the existing Cobun Creek reservoir.

Those options are estimated to cost an additional $780,000 and $1,140,000, respectively, and would not require a customer rate increase to finance, according to the information presented by MUB.

Ball said the MUB board has released $1 million from the utility’s contingencies fund to address the issue and will make a final determination on which option to recommend to city council during MUB’s next meeting on June 20.

Part of the enthusiasm for those two options — numbered 3 and 8 on the map available at — is the potential for MUB to leave behind a new trail system, which it has agreed to do.

In either case, MUB will need to cut a 40-foot swath through the park to place the pipe and will leave behind a 10-15-foot wide trail. It will also replant the impacted area with assistance from the Morgantown Tree Board.

In the meantime, MUB is exploring whether sites within the park that formerly held oil tanks pose a potential contamination threat. The utility is working with Triad Engineering and in consultation with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on that issue. MUB leadership has previously said it does not expect contamination concerns to impact its efforts in any substantial way.

However, a number is speakers expressed concerns that the process has been too rushed and that several issues have not been factored, like how many trees will need to be removed for the prospective routes and the value of lost carbon sequestration of those lost trees.
Speakers also said it is presumptive of the MUB board to recommend a route before the results of the soil tests are in. Ball said the board’s selection will be contingent upon those results and that he doesn’t intend to bring any recommendation to city council until the results are in hand.

The new reservoir and raw water pipeline is a $48 million project.