Water Quality Board, Huntington Sanitary Board not Subject to City Council Authority

Updated 17 weeks ago
Water Quality Board, Huntington Sanitary Board not Subject to City Council Authority

During the Thursday, July 20 Huntington City Council work session, Mayor Steve Williams explained to council members that they have no authority or responsibilities over the utility. The Water Quality Board is a holding company for the Huntington Sanitary Board, Stormwater Board, and the floodwall.

He told council members that if residents contact them, "You do not have official authority except setting rates and appointing board members."  The utilities are under regulations by the WV Public Service Commission, WV Division of Environmental Protection,and the U.S. Dept. of Environmental Protection.

Based on two WV Supreme Court cases, in Huntington,  council must approve purchases over $25,000 and statewide Sanitary Sewer systems are responsibility for street cleaning streets to ensure that sewer collection is not clogged.

The utilities have come under severe criticism for collection and billing processes after determining to aggressively target $900,000 in past due bills.

 Williams indicated , "We are reviewing our entire system," in terms of billing and collection issues. He refused to cite any particular individual. Council did not raise a question concerning alleged untimely calls or overlapping bills.

Councilman Tom McGuffin inquired about "receiving two bills."

"I can't answer that," Williams said. "I'll have  to meet with the folks in charge of billing."

During the complaint process, the mayor admitted communication "ball dropping" resulting in delays. He took responsibility for all billing issues and asked members to email: mayorwilliams@cityofhuntington.com. He declined to name the individual identified in court documents as "billing manager." He told council he was responsible.

He said the interpretation and  discretion of the state statute is currently under review .  The statute authorizes water shut off until bills are paid in full  for delinquent sewer and stormwater bills and that a reasonable late and reconnection fee can be added.

 

Complaints have been received of cut off dates a day after the due date and cut offs after payment.

No one asked concerning payment plans, hardship, disabled , seniors and low income consumers.

Williams  clarified that there is no so-called "rain tax."  The stormwater utility covers both floodwall and stormwater runoff.

He  reminded that floodwall fees were removed from the Municipal Service Fees (a 10% reduction) and placed as part of the stormwater fee.

The Mayor indicated that council approved the fees for the utility.

A case involving HSB has been appealed from the Cabell County Circuit Court to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Consumer Whitney Eskew has fought the billing procedures in an administrative hearing before the Public Service Commission. Her case is Exhibit 1, Whitney Eskew v. City of Huntington Sanitary Board, Case 17-0465 S-C.  Consumers complaining in writing should ask that their complaint be added to this case or that a separate case be opened. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/150340

Susan Small, PSC communications director ,told HNN earlier this month:


"Our staff has recommended you provide the Public Service Commission’s Utility Complaint Phone Number (1-800-642-8544)  to the people contacting you with complaints regarding utilities so those customers can contact the PSC directly.  We can review each customer’s situation based upon the particular facts.  This would be the informal process.  Customers also have the option of a formal complaint but we recommend the informal process be used first."

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