Editorials, Opinion

We should embrace chances to speak up

Too often, we forget that there are ways to participate in government outside election season. For example — particularly on the local level — there are town halls, open houses and public comment meetings that people can attend, where they can give direct feedback to elected officials about the things that impact them directly.

This Thursday,  Morgantown residents will have the opportunity to learn about updates to the city’s comprehensive plan — a metaphorical roadmap of projects and improvements over the next 10 years. The “Morgantown 2033” policy document covers land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure, community services and facilities, recreation, economic development, community design and character, financing, historic preservation, preferred development areas and renewal and/or redevelopment recommendations.

From 6-8 p.m. Thursday, the city will host an open house at the Wiles Hill Community Center (287 Eureka Drive). Graphics summarizing the plan will be posted around the gymnasium for people to review. Representatives from the City of Morgantown, as well as the consultant group Rhodeside & Harwell, will be available to answer questions, and participants are highly encouraged to share their thoughts and give feedback on the proposals.

The last public meeting for the comprehensive plan was in March 2022; the video presentation from that meeting is available to view online. For more information about Morgantown 2033, the Thursday night open house or to view the previous presentation, visit morgantownwv.gov/652/Morgantown-2033.

 Speaking of public comments …

You may have seen in the news pages that Hope Gas submitted a request to the Public Service Commission for a $66,537,753 rate hike (an increase of $6.45 per month — 5.84% — on a residential bill).

The rate hike is part of the yearly rate change request for its Pipeline Replacement and Expansion Program (PREP). As you may remember reading in a previous editorial, utilities have a government-backed guarantee to get reimbursed for infrastructure projects, plus some profit. That money, of course, comes from ratepayers. The $66.5 million Hope Gas is asking for is supposed to cover its General Program for its core distribution system and its Gathering Program for gathering facilities.

PSC Utilities Analyst Cristine Watson supported the proposal in testimony last week, saying the utility deserved to re-coop its costs, plus the incremental rate of return, without waiting for a full base-rate application case. Based on this testimony, Hope Gas indicated it would ask for the Sept. 1 evidentiary hearing to be waived and for the PSC to approve the increase.

However, Watson did note that Hope Gas “over-recovered” (collecting more from ratepayers than the actual costs) $348,272 for its general distribution system (minus business taxes) and $132,964 for its gathering system in 2022.

Because this rate increase is part of an annual re-evaluation, the PSC won’t hold any special public comment periods; rather, individuals can submit their thoughts on the rate hike at any time. To submit a comment, go to psc.state.wv.us/scripts/onlinecomments/default.cfm and choose “formal case.” After agreeing to the terms, you will be directed to a case search page. The Hope Gas Pipeline Replacement and Expansion Program is included in the “High Profile Case” dropdown menu. (Or look for case number 23-0461-G-390P) From there, follow the instructions to leave your comment.

Government is supposed to be run by the people, for the people. So we must take every opportunity available to speak up for ourselves and make sure government officials know how we feel.