Dungannon residents angered by unexpected tap fee

Holly Viers • Aug 12, 2019 at 12:08 PM

GATE CITY — A handful of Dungannon residents have threatened to sue the Scott County Public Service Authority over a recent waterline extension project along Hanging Rock Parkway.

The issue was discussed during Wednesday’s meeting of the Scott County Board of Supervisors. The waterline extension was intended to serve residents at about nine homes, but now some of them are pulling out due to a $1,500 tap fee that they didn’t realize they would have to pay.

“This is so controversial that at church Sunday, (the residents) said, ‘We’re getting an attorney and suing the PSA over this.’ … I talked to all of them except one of the nine, and not one of them said they would’ve taken it if they had known this is what it’s going to cost,” said Danny Mann, BOS chairman.

What’s the issue?

Around two years before work began on the waterline extension, residents signed user agreements, which stated that if the project received outside funding, customers would not have to pay any tap fees to connect to the line.

The SCPSA also sent out a letter with the user agreements to explain the zero tap fee, but neither the letter nor the user agreement disclosed what would happen if the project did not receive outside funding, Mann said.

The project did not receive funding, but due to its importance, the SCPSA proceeded with it anyway and installed the line within the last couple of weeks.

“Hearing from some members of our board and some members of the Board of Supervisors, water quality is really bad, so I felt a sense of urgency to get this done,” said Mike Dishman, director of the SCPSA. “It was a relatively easy project and was about 3,000 to 4,000 feet of line, I think, but it cost us, just in materials and engineering, about $25,000 to $30,000.”

Now, the SCPSA is left to fund the project on its own and planned to do so by charging customers tap fees and asking them to sign 10-year user agreements. Once residents found out about these terms, many felt they’d been part of a “bait-and-switch” to pay fees they didn’t originally agree to, Mann said.

What happens now?

Dishman said he will let residents out of the user agreement if they do not agree to pay the tap fees. These residents would not be permitted to hook into the new waterline unless the SCPSA board changes its policy, he added.

Mann said he feels the SCPSA should allow the residents to connect to the new line without paying the tap fee. He added that the situation should serve as “a learning experience” to clarify the user agreements in the future.

Moving forward, Dishman said the controversy may dissuade the SCPSA from doing other short waterline extensions, as those type of projects generally do not receive outside funding.

“If we wait on outside funding, I’m afraid this project and others like it would never get funded. Therefore, the waterline would never get built. … We will strive to do a better job explaining to people up-front,” Dishman said, “but they did have two years to ask since they signed it.”