The House Government Organization Committee passed a bill to require at least one rate-paying residential customer be part of a public utility board’s membership, according to an audio webcast streamed live Tuesday on the West Virginia Legislature’s website.
State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson/Berkeley, the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 82, has said there had been some concern in Jefferson County about appointing rate payers to a public service district board.
State Sens. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, and Craig Blair, R-Berkeley/Morgan/Hampshire/Mineral, joined Snyder in sponsoring the bill, which was reported to the House floor Tuesday and placed on the active calendar to be read a first time Wednesday.
While the bill advanced, an amendment attached by a majority vote of the committee drew objections from at least three committee members, including Dels. Larry Kump, Larry Faircloth and Michael Folk, all R-Berkeley.
All three urged members to vote against the amendment, which would allow for public service district board members to be paid more per each monthly and special meeting they attend.
Faircloth urged rejection of the bill in the interest of keeping customers’ utility rates low. Folk questioned who would approve the pay adjustment if the proposed legislation only allows for the pay increase and doesn’t require it.
Supporters of the bill told committee members that some communities in the state were having a difficult time trying to find people to serve on the public service district boards and the pay increase was proposed as an incentive.
Board members for public service districts that have 4,000 or more customers, such as the water and sewer districts in Berkeley County, could receive up to $50 more per meeting they attend, according to the amended bill posted on the Legislature’s website.
Their total salary per year could not exceed $6,400 under the change proposed.
The salary increase proposal failed to pass the House Finance Committee earlier in the session, committee members were told.