By February 15, 2017 Read More →

Bill would stop flow of West Virginia Water Development Board payments

By JANET METZNER

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — A bill that passed through the West Virginia Senate Government Organization Committee Tuesday would eliminate the salaries of members of the West Virginia Water Development Board, if it eventually becomes law.

The four water board members earn $12,000 annually, and are required, by law, to attend four meetings per year. The four appointed members listed on the authority website are: Michael Duplaga of Wheeling, Mike Jones of Farmington, John M. Miller III of Gerrardstown, and Jason Pizzatella of Morgantown.

“We have plenty of boards and authorities throughout this state with well-qualified members, without compensation,” said Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, a member of the committee.

“We’re talking about a board that meets four times a year for four-to-five hours, and they (each) made $12,000.”

Weld said it’s an instance of waste in government that he and some other legislators are working to eliminate.

The board controls the West Virginia Water Development Authority, which “serves as a revenue bond bank that provides financing for construction of wastewater and water facilities to Local Governmental Agencies,” including municipalities and counties, its website states.

Senate Bill 172, which would eliminate that salary for the four appointed board members, passed the committee and was sent along to the full Senate with a recommendation for passage. That’s less than a week after it was introduced Thursday by Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, the committee’s chairman.

When contacted Tuesday evening, Duplaga said he had no comment on the committee’s passage of the legislation.

According to the bill, the four appointed members of the seven-member board earn $12,000 each, payable in monthly installments. The pay is for the four, governor-appointed members only, and are each named to a six-year term, according to state code. Terms are staggered.

If the bill becomes law, those payments would stop July 1, the bill states.

Instead, the legislation proposes the following: “Appointed members may not receive an annual salary or any compensation beyond reimbursement for reasonable and necessary expenses allowed by this section.” It does allow for approved reimbursements “for reasonable and necessary expenses actually incurred in the performance of duties,” it states.

Ex-officio members of the board — those who do not receive compensation — are the governor who serves as the chairman; the Department of Environmental Protection secretary; and the commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health, or their designees.

During the Senate Government Organization Committee meeting Tuesday, Chris Jarrett, the authority’s executive director, said the salary money would be put back into Public Service District funds to be used for other projects — for example, water lines to rural areas.

Also on Tuesday, the committee passed SB 215 to the full Senate. If it passes the Legislature, it would allow county commissions the authority to amend proposed rates, fees and charges proposed by public service districts.

It grants county commissions the authority to set rates “to approve, reject or amend the proposed rates, fees and charges in its sole discretion,” the bill states.

According to Weld, currently when a public service district must propose a rate, its county commission — which serves the majority of PSD customers — must visit the Public Service Commission in Charleston to have it approved or rejected. If it’s rejected, the cumbersome process begins again, Weld explained.

“To me, this is about giving local authorities control over their jurisdiction, where people elect the county commissioners to serve them, represent them and do the right thing,”Weld said. “Pushing more authority to the lowest level of government who are closest to the community, just makes sense.”

Sen. Charlie Clements, R-Wetzel, also a member of the committee, could not be reached for comment.

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