City Council advances proposal to reshape MUB

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A proposed reorganization of the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) is moving to Morgantown City Council’s regular agenda.

An ordinance that would reconfigure MUB’s board of directors and give council final authority over the utility’s projects was discussed during council’s committee of the whole Tuesday night. The proposal would place a member of council on the board, would give the Morgantown City Manager a non-voting seat on the board and would allow council to have final approval on any MUB projects valued at over $1 million.

“We’re trying to improve communications and transparency and trying to make a more cooperative relationship,” said Morgantown Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble. “I think that this is a good step towards that,” she said.

The decision to bring the ordinance to council’s agenda stems from multiple lapses in communication between the city of Morgantown and MUB. While members of council spoke about the need for improvements, Trumble pointed out construction projects involving MUB, the city and BOPARC as examples of why the ordinance is needed.

“I just think that it’s not respectful for council members who are in charge of approving projects or BOPARC board members who are in charge of White Park, to hear about those kinds of projects in the newspaper,” she said. “Instead of hearing them directly from the people we’re supposed to be partnering with,” she said.

The construction through White Park has been the source of consternation for several years. Negotiations over the route of the new raw water pipeline grew and MUB’s responsibilities in remediating the park became contentious and some are now miffed at a project to replace dilapidated sewer lines through White Park.

Changes to MUB’s five-member board are expected to be seen rather quickly if the ordinance passes. A seat on the board is expected to be open in October where according to Trumble, council would then vote one of their members onto the board, much as they have done with past board members. City Manager Kim Haws would immediately take a spot as a non-voting member of the board with the rest of the board remaining the same.

“It’s going to remain the same five-member board that it is now,” Trumble said. “There is a term expiring at the end of October so we will use that expiring term to seat a council member,” she said.

Despite council’s general support for the ordinance, MUB ratepayers who live outside of Morgantown city limits spoke against it during the committee of the whole. They expressed concern over the appointments and their potential impact on rates and board representation of over half of MUB’s over 100,000 customers.

The ordinance doesn’t change limits on board members for residents outside of the city (no more than two on the board) nor does it change the requirement of the council to not only approve board members but rate changes as well. Acknowledging those concerns, Trumble said that if the ordinance passes, it will pass for the primary purpose of improving operations between a city and a utility that serves over 40,000 of its residents.

“I hope that we can sit down with some of the MUB administration or MUB board members over the coming weeks and work to make the ordinance work for everyone,” said Trumble.

The ordinance is expected to be voted on before a new MUB board member is elected in October.