A recent change in the classification of the Mingo County Public Service District laid a request for a countywide water rate increase directly in the lap of the Mingo County Commission. Previously, that decision would have been made by the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

The commission held a public hearing on the matter last Friday during which public comments and written statements by county residents were weighed. The ultimate decision by the commission was to deny the request for a rate hike made by the county’s water provider.

The purpose of the rate increase was to prove to the USDA that the county PSD would have sufficient funds to pay for waterline extensions in Ben Creek and Beech Creek. The projects are ready for bid but funding sources must be finalized prior to anything else occurring, Mingo County PSD Executive Director J.B. Heflin explained to the commission about two months ago.

At that time, the commission was opposed to the increase but asked Heflin to arrange a telephone conference in order for the county to gain information on the loan.

“J.B. and I had a phone conversation with the USDA,” said Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith. “We expressed our concerns to them and told them our people are hurting.”

The telephone conference resulted in the USDA lowering the interest rate on a loan which will be used to fund the Ben Creek and Beech Creek water projects. The rate initially proposed in the original agreement was 3 percent. The new rate will be 1.5 percent. Also during the conference, the USDA agreed to allow the PSD to proceed with the bid process before submitting its funding.

“With the normal process, you have to guess at the amount of funding you need,” Smith said. “This will allow us to get an actual cost of the project before we move forward.”

The commissioners told Heflin to put the project out for bid and to bring a final total back to them. At that time, the body will decide on the feasibility of the project and if a rate increase will be necessary at that time.

Helfin said because of the new funding packet, the project will be placed back into the review process. However, he thinks it will move much quicker than before since it us just a matter of updating paperwork. Legal ads for the project will be placed in local newspapers this month. Heflin said he is hopeful the bid can be awarded in October and if weather permits construction could possibly begin in the spring of 2021. Construction is expected to last approximately a year.