BEVERLY, W.Va. — The mayor of a Randolph County town is asking for more information before she gets behind a more than $18,000 requested payment to the Randolph County Development Authority for improvements to the water system in Beverly.
The work to install an insertion valve in connection with the ongoing expansion at Armstrong Flooring wrapped up in December.
Mayor Cindy Karelis said she first received a request for a “contribution” for a lesser amount, $17,600, to cover the cost in November.
Prior to that, “There was never any kind of approach to us, no request for contribution beforehand,” Karelis said.
She said two separate requests for larger payments from two different entities came later, including an amount of $18,850 from the Randolph County Development Authority, the fiscal agent for the project.
“This seems so bizarre. We never knew that we were going to be asked and it was after the fact, after the insertion valve had already been put in.”
But Robbie Morris, RCDA’s executive director, said the money owed to his organization should not have been a surprise.
“Our engineers were in contact with the Beverly Utility Board well in advance of the project as we were pre-planning everything,” he said.
The scope of the project changed because of conditions, he said.
“We communicated with them throughout the project,” Morris maintained.
Karelis disputed that.
“There was never any kind of consultation where we would meet and discuss any plans,” she said.
“The only consultation that went on is one of our operators went down and gave them opinions as to where the insertion valve should be placed.”
Morris said any Beverly payment will serve as reimbursement for the authority for upgrade work to limit water outages that, in his view, is “a good deal” that’s “mutually beneficial.”
“Now the Armstrong Plant is able to be isolated so that, if there’s a problem elsewhere in the system, the Armstrong Plant could keep their fire suppression system going which means the plant would continue to operate,” Morris explained.
“Or if there was a problem with the Armstrong system, you’re able to then loop around and the residents and citizens within that area are able to keep their water flowing.”
Before the change, water problems had the potential to be more far-reaching within the system.
Construction continues on the 85,000-square-foot addition for a new distribution center at Armstrong Flooring to join the existing 750,000-square-foot facility in Beverly.
Walls could begin going up there within six weeks, according to Morris.
The expansion is a collaboration with the Randolph County Development Authority utilizing financing from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and West Virginia Economic Development Authority.
When it comes to the water system improvement, Morris said a payment plan is a possibility.
“From the beginning, I’ve told the (Beverly) Town Council and Mayor and the Utility Board that we’re willing to work with them on whatever kind of a payment system they would need in order to reimburse those funds,” he said.
“We’re completely flexible in that regard.”
The proposed payment to RCDA for the water system improvement will be taken up when members of Beverly’s Town Council meet in April.
“Council’s just confused as to why there have been three different quotes in three different months from three different entities without much explanation as to why the price continues to rise,” Karelis said.
“I feel it’s such an important decision whether to commit this money to a project that we never, ever were brought into (ahead of time).”