Sunday, July 21, 2024

Vienna infrastructure explained; virtual town hall held by mayoral candidate

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VIENNA, W.Va. (WTAP) – Mayoral candidate and Vienna Utility Board member Kim Williams held an Infrastructure Town Hall on Facebook Tuesday evening.

The town hall was held responding to residents voicing concerns over Vienna’s underground infrastructure. Williams said she wanted to host the live event to help educate the public about how Vienna’s infrastructure works.

Williams started the event by explaining the difference between the Vienna City Council and the Vienna Utility Board, and how they work.

The City Council approves the five directors who serve on the utility board for their four-year term. The chairman of the utility board is the Vienna Mayor, Randall Rapp. Three members of the Council are Vienna residents, and the last member is appointed from the Council. Williams serves as the Vienna City Council member of the utility board.

Regarding infrastructure, the city and the utility board share Vienna’s control operation and management. The city is responsible for the streets and bridges, while the VUB is responsible for the water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater systems. Williams said the money funding the city and utility board must be kept separate.

She explained that taxes fund the city’s general fund budget, and the VUB has its own fund, called the enterprise fund, that comes from ratepayers. Residents’ monthly water bill money goes into the enterprise fund.

Willaims continued by explaining what the money from each fund gets used for.

City Council: General Fund Budget

This budget includes the stormwater, streets, and bridges. Since the enterprise fund does not allocate stormwater, it takes money from the city to help pay for stormwater projects.

The money to maintain the streets in Vienna comes from the general fund budget. Williams said $850,000 has been budgeted for street repair for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

The Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will help replace or repair the bridges in Vienna at no cost to the city. Williams mentioned that the money would come from the city’s capital reserve account without these federal dollars.

Vienna Utility Board: Enterprise Fund Budget

This budget funds the sewer and water systems, which are kept separate by state law. Money collected for each goes into its own fund budget, and by state law, 12.5% of annual payments are kept in reserve for each budget account.

Williams followed by explaining some of the budgets for the sewer and water funds and some projects the utility board currently has in the works to improve the water and sewer infrastructure.

Sewer Fund (’24-’25) and System Improvements

  • Operating revenue = $2,294,800
  • Operation and maintenance expenses = $2,074,800
  • Operating surplus $294,600

Phase 1 of the sewer system improvements includes line replacement. Williams explained that Vienna sends sewer waster to Parkersburg for treatment, which travels through pipes from the 12th St. lift station to Parkerbsurg’s sanitary sewer. Williams said that this project will replace the main line, which is 40 years old, and include the lines from 12th St. to 11th Ave. These lines are too small in diameter, which is causing capacity issues.

Williams mentioned that the total cost for this project is about $7 million, and $1 million is being funded with federal dollars. She said additional funding is needed to complete this project. This project should begin in 2025.

Phase 2 of the improvement project includes replacing the Woodland Heights sewer line. Williams said sewer lines throughout the city that need to be replaced have also been identified. The total cost for this phase is projected to be approximately $5 million. The design process should begin in 2026, with construction starting in 2027. Additional funding is also needed to complete these projects.

Water Fund (’24-’25) and System Improvements

  • Operating revenue = $1,635,000
  • Operation and maintenance expenses = $1,340,400
  • Operating surplus = $294,600

Phase 1 of the water system improvements includes replacing the small-diameter water lines throughout Vienna. Williams said the funding for this project has not been determined yet, but the total cost is approximately $4 million. Construction for these projects should begin in 2025.

Phase 2 includes improvements to Wells 9 and 10 and replacing the 20th St. booster station. The total cost is approximately $2.3 million. Williams mentioned that the design process for this project should begin in 2026, with construction starting in 2027.

The VUB also has a three-phase multi-year storm improvement project to reduce flooding from 28th St. to 34th St. along 15th Ave. This project will include larger drainpipes and underground retention systems to hold and release stormwater. The funding for this project has not been identified yet, but it is expected to cost approximately $6 million. Phase 1 of this project should begin in the summer of 2025 and cost about $2 million. Williams mentioned that this project can be funded from the city’s capital reserve accounts and with grants.

In addition, the VUB has also outlined a plan to dredge Pond Run and the three dams located in Greenmont Hills. Pond Run has not been dredged in over 40 years, so Williams explained that dredging to the original Army Corps. of Engineers specifications will improve drainage and reduce flooding. She said federal funds for this project have been requested.

In summary, Williams showed that the following projects are estimated to cost the following:

  • Sewer projects: $13 million
  • Water projects: $6.5 million
  • Storm drainage: $6 million
  • Dredging projects: $1.5 million

Williams explained that the VUB operates just enough money to cover the operating expenses of the water and sewer systems, per state code, which leaves no additional money for capital improvements. To fund these projects, they have to request bonds and grants. Williams mentioned that if the VUB is to receive a bond for these projects, the rates will have to increase to be able to pay back the bond. Vienna hasn’t had a rate increase in over eight years.

“I wish that we would’ve been raising water and sewer rates a little bit, along, as the years have gone by, just a little bit, incrementally, so that it’s not too big of a shock to anybody’s budget,” said Williams.

Williams ended her live event with a Q&A, answering the viewers’ questions. Here, she mentioned that rates would not increase instantly for Vienna residents. There is a lengthy process with several meetings that must occur before that can happen.

To watch the full replay of the Infrastructure Town Hall, click here. The next utility board meeting will occur on Friday, July 19, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

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