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© 2011 Lavalette Public Service District Lavalette, WV 25535

HISTORY OF LAVALETTE PSD

In 1964,  Lavalette was a small community situated  just south of Huntington. The residents had no water supply other than wells which produced low amounts of poor quality water.  The newly formed Lavalette Volunteer Fire Department was also in need of fire hydrants to protect the community they now served.   J. A. Roe, Bill Wellman, Charles Overby, and a few other founders and members of the Fire Department lead the efforts to obtain a public water supply for Lavalette.

Being a small, unincorporated community with no local government meant Lavalette would have difficulty getting funding.  But J. A. Roe, Bill Wellman, Harry Smith, Charles Griffith, Carl Malcolm, Renick Wilkinson,  and a few of the visionary community residents could see a time when Lavalette could be a thriving business and residential area, if it only had a good supply of water.  Water was the key to growth, prosperity,  and a better quality of life than they now had.  These visionary residents, lead by the first Board  chairman  J.A. Rowe, took action.


Lavalette Public Service District was created December 7, 1964 by the Wayne County Commission with the goal of providing high quality, potable water to the Lavalette community and surrounding areas.  The first Board election of officers was held in Attorney William Wells office on December 7th, 1964 and consisted of J. A. Rowe as Chairman (also Chairman of the Fire Dept. Board), Harry Smith as Secretary, and Charles Griffith as Treasurer.

This was a massive undertaking that involved several pump stations and tanks to transport purchased  water from the City of Huntington to the homes in this small community.  A loan for $486,000.00 from Farmers Home Administration (now called Rural Development) and a grant for $458,000. would finance this project if 400 customers could be signed.  The initial tap fee would be $35.00, and a tap contract would need to be signed requiring a minimum bill of $6.00 per month be paid for three years, even if no water was used.  Most of the community members who donated time to sign up potential customers we also members of the newly formed Lavalette Vol. Fire Department.  The required 400 customers were signed, many buying  more than one tap and paying the minimum bill for the three years just to make it happen.   The first customers went online October 10, 1967,  and the rest is history.

Since 1964, the District has grown steadily.  The first office, was located in the garage of the first office clerk Glenna Wellman, then was moved into a new office building in 1969.  Billing and record keeping was done by hand so more office help was soon needed. Opel Fisher was soon hired, followed by Linda Davis as an Office Clerk.

Some of the original line installation was done by subcontract using equipment owned by Bill Wellman (husband of Glenna Wellman).  In 1966, Bill Wellman and Carroll Earp formed W&E Excavating and began doing maintenance, repair, meter reading, and installation of new taps for the District.  Labor was provided by Bill Wellman, Carroll Earp,  Jack Ward, Bill Willis, Darrell Wellman, Rick Wellman, and other part time help..  In 1971 Bill Wellman formed Wellman Construction Co. and was the District’s contractor until 1975.

Shortly thereafter, Darrell Wellman and Arnold Sullivan formed Lavalette Trenching Company and began doing contract line repair, extensions of service, and booster station maintenance for the District. This continued until about 1986 at which time the District hired its own employees and equipment and began doing their own in house maintenance & repair.

In 1972, an extension of the main line was needed to provide service to approximately 75 new customer south of Lavalette.
In 1980 the area had grown until another extension of service was needed.  This time it was east of Lavalette, providing water for approximately 100 residents who had deep wells, but no water.  In 1984 additional field help was hired and more and bigger digging equipment was purchased.  Customer base had risen from less than 400 in 1966, to 847 in November 1972, and 1200 by 1980.  The next ten years saw slower but steady growth and expansion for the District reaching the 1500 customers mark by 1990.   But,  the much anticipated and envisioned growth of the Lavalette area was about to explode into reality.

The 1990's signaled an era of unprecedented growth of residential and business expansion in Lavalette.  Over 400 new homes and business have been constructed since 1990, most in the past five years. Several sub-divisions sprang up on land previously not usable because of poor water supplies.   Mobile home park developments added customers very quickly.  Businesses began to notice the southward expansion of the Huntington residential area and business construction began to boom in Lavalette.  By 1994 customer base was 2000 and growing. The demand on the water system soon taxed the capacity of LPSD’s main lines and pumps to the limit. An experienced Board  realized that something was going to have to be done and done soon.

In 1995, the Board of Directors (Dennis Lyons, Bill Willis, Joe Booten) and General Manager Darrell Wellman began to explore ways to increase employee productivity, system capacity, system reliability, and still control rates.  It wasn’t long before the answer was very apparent, the District was going to have to upgrade every aspect of its operation to take advantage of new technologies and improvements in equipment.  That guided the District to touch-read meter reading, installed by employees, beginning in 1996.  Meter reading time was cut by 60% allowing employees to do other tasks.     Pumps were upgraded making use of higher capacity, more efficient pumps and valves, again done with District employees.  Self-help extensions and Public Service Commission approved  ”Developer Agreements” became a part of the strategy to keep cost under control, yet still provide new service.  Since 1996, over nine miles of new self-help main line, and numerous developments  have been installed at no cost to the District or impact on customer rates.   Office and field employees,  trucks,  construction equipment, radio communications equipment,  billing and office computers,  water purchase cost,  and water loss were all addressed.    Trucks, tools, and equipment were purchased, allowing the District to do more “in house” projects and saving future cost.  It had been a very difficult and busy five year growth program for the District, but the results were astounding.  The District was now financially sound and keeping ahead of amazing growth.

In 1999, the Lavalette Public Service District served over 2600 customers, through 160 miles of main line.  The system consist of  158 fire hydrants,  300+  main line valves,  five pump stations with five storage tanks (a 6th pump station and tank will be added in 2000),  13 pressure reducing valves (PRV’s), and 8 master meters which are phone-read each morning by computer.

In early 2000, the District was in desperate need of additional office, maintenance, and storage space.  The decision was made to sell the existing building and buy a bigger building.  Being  located next door to Lavalette Vol. Fire Dept, the Fire Department purchased the existing building.   In July of 2000, The PSD then purchased a newer building located at 5308 Rt 152 near Dickson.  The building had previously housed Bob’s Paint & Body Shop.  Using District employees and some part time help, the new facility was remodeled and the move was made in October of 2000.   In 2001, the District again was building adjacent to the office.  This time it was a new 40 x 100 maintenance buildings again constructed using in house employees and jail trustees from the Wayne County Jail.

In 2003 the District again made drastic improvements to the system and capacities.  Booster pumps were up sized again and new computer based “Scada” booster and tank monitoring equipment was purchased and installed.  Every aspect of the distribution system was now computer controlled and monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  This also included security alarms and intrusion features.
Radio Read meters were also added in 2003.  This upgrade allowed one man and one truck to read meters in one day, instead of two trucks, four men, four days to do the meter reading monthly.   This was a great savings for customers and a huge help with necessary monthly maintenance requirements.

In the spring of 2003, the Wayne County Commission extended the Districts boundaries were to include everything North of Rt 37 that currently did not have public water.  This increased the area now served by over 200%.

In the spring of 2006, the extended boundaries of Lavalette PSD began extensions of service from the town of Prichard south along Rt 52 to the Town of Ft Gay, Big Hurricane Creek Road, Little Hurricane Creek Road, Queens Creek, Sugar Branch, Long Branch, and surrounding areas.  This $5,000,000. extension of service covered 29 miles and added 250 rural customers. The first services were turned on in September of 2006.

It became apparent due to the new area being 26 miles from the main office that maintenance to this new area would require a maintenance sub station in that area.  In early 2007 the District purchased property at the intersection of Rt 37 and Big Hurricane Creek Road and constructed a 30 x 40 “Southern Maintenance Building” to assist with that responsibility.  Plans were also completed for an additional extension beginning on Rt 37 at the new building and going along Rt 37 to meet the Town of Wayne water system at Wolfe Creek Road.

In 2007, the Lavalette Public Service District will serve over 3,300 customers, through 250 miles of main line.  The system consist of 240 fire hydrants, 450+  main line valves, seven pump stations with six storage tanks,  18 pressure reducing valves (PRV’s), and 3 master meters which are read each morning by computer.

The $5,000,000.  Rt 37 project is expected to begin in the spring of 2008 and will add approximately 250 additional customers and 25 miles of line.

Since 1964, many other community minded individuals have served on the Board.  Ted Yoder, Carl Malcolm, Edith Blatt,  Renick Wilkinson,  Joe Booten, and Richard Mullens have all served their community by contributing their time and talents to provide safe water to their friends and neighbors in the Lavalette area.

The current 2007 Board Members are Dennis Lyons (Chairman), Bill Willis (Sec. / Treas.), and Mike Blatt (member).  The staff consists of General Manager Darrell Wellman, Office Manager Toni Shepard, Richard Smith  Field Supervisor, Randy Smith Asst. Field Supervisor, Robert Weaver Construction Supervisor, and 3 field utility employees - Eddie Perry, Mark Napier, and Jason Perry.   The total combined years of service in the water industry exceeds 150 years,  giving LPSD the experience necessary to provide quality service and  “Quality on Tap”.

As of December 2008 the District owns 11 trucks, 7 backhoes, 6 trailers, an excavator, 2 air compressors, a construction box trailer, a street sweeper, a radio repeater communications system and personal radios for each employee,  and a full compliment of testing and line locating equipment.

Both the present and former staff of Lavalette Public Service District have for over 35 years provided excellence in water service to the community of Lavalette and surrounding areas.