Storm water still a concern for Kingwood Council

KINGWOOD — Controlling storm water through ordinance enforcement and city boards was discussed again by Kingwood Council this week.
Kingwood Sewer Board Chairman Randy Plum reported what he learned about creating a storm water authority, as discussed earlier by council.
Though sewer board members and the authority board might be the same people, they would have to have separate funds, Plum said.
The sewer board sent notices earlier this year to 16 property owners, telling them to stop their gutters and other storm water from running into the sanitary sewers. Six have done so.
All of this goes back to a federal mandate that storm water and sanitary sewers be separated or towns will be fined.
There are areas of the town where, if gutters and other drains are removed from the sanitary sewers, the water will run onto neighboring property or the street, Plum said. A storm water authority could be a means to finance and do smaller projects to find solutions in some areas, he said.
During times of heavy rainfall, as much as 80 percent of the water that goes through the Kingwood sewerage treatment plant is not billed for treatment because it is storm water, Plum said. It increases costs and wears out equipment more quickly.
One thing that will help is City Supervisor Bruce Pyles’ work to stop creek water on Showerbath Road from going into the plant. At times of heavy flow, that was an eight-inch stream of water, City Clerk Mary Howell said.
Plum also discussed changes made to the city sewer ordinance that allow the sewer board to fine people who don’t remove storm water. In a letter, the State Public Service Commission (PSC) recently wrote that while the city followed all the requirements for passing the ordinance, it was submitted to the PSC past the five days it requires.
In the letter, PSC Supervising Attorney Leslie J. Anderson said the agency approved the tariff, but it could open the door for an appeal. “Essentially, they are saying we are a target,” Plum said.
Ultimately, Plum said, he believes council should pass the ordinance again, with any other amendments needed. Until then, the board does not plan to enforce the penalties. He said some commercial customers could end up with “substantial” liability removing storm water. “I expect to get into court,” he said.
Recorder Bill Robertson opined that since the PSC okayed the tariffs, “I think those are good to go.” He and Plum both said a legal opinion should be sought.
Former Sewer Board attorney Sheila Williams pointed out Wednesday that the letter says no one complained of the changes to the PSC. Also no one could say they were harmed by the ordinance because the adoption requirements were followed, she said.
Also at the meeting:
Council learned attorney Sam Hess, of the firm McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, cannot be hired as the city attorney, as agreed at the last meeting. The firm is representing a couple that has a civil suit against the city. This constitutes a conflict of interest.
Council approved first reading of the resolution on the acquisition of Public Service District 2 by the Kingwood Water Works. It also agreed to a change in the Water Board, to allow the addition of two members from the area served by the PSD. The board will have seven members now.
Dale McVicker of the Preston County Parks and Recreation asked for a letter of support for the organization’s application for funding from the county to continue clean up of the former Northern Railroad property on Sisler Street. Council agreed to the letter.

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