According to an opinion delivered by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Monongah’s proposed water project would not benefit the town.

But as the project’s hearing approaches, Monongah officials are trying to remain positive.

In a final join staff memorandum dated Jan. 12, the PSC recommended that Monongah’s Certificate of Convenience and Necessity application, filed on Sept. 5, 2006, be turned down. Monongah filed the application in an effort to upgrade its water treatment facility and water distribution system in the town.

“They are recommending the project should be denied as filed,” Mayor Roger Huffman said during Monday night’s council meeting. “That is the recommended decision, and that usually goes a long way. The water plant, as of now, doesn’t look good.”

The memorandum stated: “It is the Staff’s opinion that the project as currently proposed will not convenience the public, nor is it necessary.”

The PSC cited that Monongah didn’t appropriately assess Fairmont’s water supply as an option and that the town neglected to clearly explain the initial and current costs of the project. It also noted possible dangers with the existing plant’s foundations because the facility is stationed above an abandoned coal mine.

The document listed other faults of the project and areas that Monongah “failed to adequately address” in its application.

Huffman said the town determined that water rates with the upgraded facility would be cheaper than purchasing water from the City of Fairmont. Thomas Michael, attorney for the town of Monongah, addressed this issue in his Jan. 22 response to the PSC’s memorandum. The response also explained that Monongah evaluated the project costs in its application and that subsidence damage was improbable.

Huffman said the water project has been in the works for seven to eight years — with constant disruptions.

“We know Fairmont’s really adamant,” Huffman said. “They have the resources and the finances to fight this whole project.”

The water project hearing is set for Thursday, Feb. 8, at 10 a.m.

If the project is denied, Monongah’s three water plant operators could lose their jobs, Huffman said.

He recognized that a PSC recommendation often reflects the final outcome. But with attorney Thomas Michael on Monongah’s side, Huffman is staying hopeful that the hearing could decide in the town’s favor.

“We’ve got to do what we can,” Huffman said. “We’ll keep fighting. I’m not going to make it easy on them.”

E-mail Jessica Legge at jlegge@timeswv.com.

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