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Westover Council initiates MUB acquisition of city’s sewer utility

WESTOVER — Westover City Council on Monday took the first step in turning the city’s sanitary sewer utility over to the Morgantown Utility Board. 

Council voted unanimously to approve an operations and maintenance agreement that will transfer responsibility for asset operation and management to MUB up until the time the acquisition is complete. 

Attorney Tim Stranko explained the two parties negotiated the O&M agreement to indicate final acquisition will occur once the city’s forthcoming Holland Avenue project is complete or very near completion. That’s expected to be either late this year or early 2025. 

The project will address busted sanitary sewer and stormwater lines running beneath roughly 2,000 feet of the city’s main thoroughfare.

“The city wants to continue to administer that project. Once we get that done, then we’ll finalize the acquisition,” he said.   

The O&M agreement now needs the green light from both the MUB Board of Directors and the West Virginia Public Service Commission. 

“We would file that jointly and ask for [PSC] approval. I can’t imagine we couldn’t get it in fairly short order,” Stranko said.  “The long and the short of it is, assuming you approve the agreement and MUB approves the agreement, we’re not done until the Public Service Commission likewise approves it in their process.” 

There are currently about 2,300 sewer customers in Westover. The city’s sewer utility sees annual revenue of about $870,000. The utility includes 21 miles of gravity sewer and one mile of force main.  

In comparison, MUB projected its sewer revenues for the current fiscal year at just over $17 million. 

Under the current setup, MUB provides water service to Westover and the city manages its own sewer and stormwater systems. MUB bills Westover’s 2,300 customers for water, sewer and garbage, then remits the sewer and garbage fees back to Westover. MUB then bills Westover for its flows into the utility’s treatment plant, in Star City.  

In other news from Monday’s meeting, council approved $13,000 to purchase an easement through the property of Rose Walsh for the future replacement of the city’s Dunkard Avenue pump station.  

“We think that’s a fair market-based price. Certainly, measuring it against the cost of a condemnation proceeding, it’s a bargain for the city,” Stranko said, explaining the money will be paid out of the project fund, not the city’s coffers.

The station is the heart of the city’s sewer system. The one mile of force main referenced above runs from the station, beneath the Monongahela River to meet up with the MUB system. 

The current expectation is the pump station project will be completed in summer 2025. 

The sister project to Holland Avenue, the two works were financed together for roughly $8.25 million.