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Mon Commission, MUB, WestRidge finalize agreement for upgrade projects

MORGANTOWN — Three signatures, one “unprecedented” collaborative effort.

Representatives of the Monongalia County Commission, the Morgantown Utility Board and developer WestRidge put pen to paper Wednesday, indicating the intent of each to cover equal $3,687,667 portions of a $14-million upgrade of water and sewer infrastructure servicing areas including WestRidge and the greater Chaplin Hill area.

The signatures were actually on a letter to the West Virginia Water Development Authority indicating the project was fully funded and thereby requesting the WDA’s $3-million allocation for the work.

As was reported last week, the three-way agreement became necessary in December, when the WDA opted to grant $3 million of a $7-million local request for upgrades totaling $7,225,000 on the water side and $6,838,000 for sewer.

“This is both a large and complex project responding to a large and complex problem. It’s a good problem. It’s really significant growth. So we’re lucky to have that, but large and complex problems aren’t easily solved,” WestRidge’s Ryan Lynch said, expressing his gratitude to both MUB and the county.

Lynch noted that he could confidently report there were at least 60 hours’ worth of meetings between the three parties in order to reach this agreement.

“This will open up industrial use. This will open up commercial use. This will open up residential. This is exactly what we need,” Commissioner Jeff Arnett said. “I don’t think you can possibly totally comprehend what a monumental task this was and what a creative solution this was. It’s unprecedented.”

The water project will include an upgrade of the Chaplin Hill booster station as well as 9,625 feet of 12” water line and 1,100 feet of 24” water line crossing beneath the Monongahela River at the Westover Bridge. It will also include the construction of a new 859,000-gallon water storage tank.

The sewer improvements will include a lift station upgrade as well as 9,000 feet of force main and 1,200 feet of sewer line crossing beneath the Monongahela River at the Star City Bridge.

All told, one or both of the projects will improve capacity to areas including Westover, Granville, Osage, Scotts Run, WestRidge, and out Chaplin Hill Road to Mylan Park and the Chaplin Hill Business Park.

“I don’t think the public understands. Normally we build just enough to get by. This is for the next 40 or 50 years,” Commission President Tom Bloom said.

Bloom thanked MUB for moving past its initial concerns about contributing significantly to the project’s financing.

These concerns were explained in July 2022 when MUB spokesman Chris Dale told The Dominion Post, “Our business model has always been that developers fund necessary upgrades that benefit their projects,” Dale said. “This is in keeping with the idea that residential customers should not pay for projects benefiting developers.”

MUB President Barbara Parsons said Wednesday that MUB ultimately believes it’s in the best interest of the county and the region to serve the development that is here now and coming in the future.

“Finding partners, developing partnerships and sharing our resources make it all possible,” Parsons said. “Again, as Mon County tries to do, we try to lead the state in the way we approach these things. And so, I think we’ve done again, another wonderful job of setting that standard.”

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