The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

May 20, 2013

PSD negotiating sale with Beckley Water Company

Efforts are progressing in negotiating a buyout of the Cool Ridge-Flat Top Public Service District by the Beckley Water Company.

According to PSD board member Bill Baldwin, the Cool Ridge-Flat Top PSD is suffering from financial difficulties that have left its future in question.

Baldwin said the local PSD, with around 1,850 customers, paid to create a water extension for a community and the PSD did not see as many customers sign up as it anticipated.

Baldwin did not share the name of the community but did say the expenditure without a return, most of all, has led to the PSD’s financial problems.

Moreover, Baldwin said the 30-year-old facility will soon need major upgrades in addition to constant repairs to existing lines.

He said it seems natural for Beckley Water Company to take over the facility, which currently purchases water from Beckley and must then charge a price greater than Beckley Water Company’s customers pay to make ends meet.

“The benefit for the Cool Ridge and Flat Top community will be that their rate will stay the same until Beckley Water receives an increase beyond what they are currently being charged,” he said.

A public hearing was held about this potential buyout April 24 at the Cool Ridge-Flat Top PSD on Cherry Creek Road in Shady Spring.

There were no custom-ers in attendance other than the PSD board of directors and a few employees, according to transcripts of the hearing.

At the public hearing, board member Hazel Burroughs stated, “Beckley Water Company had, in the past, expressed interest in purchasing the Cool Ridge-Flat Top PSD, so the board felt that was the best alternative for us, for the community and our staff. Beckley Water is probably the largest privately owned utility in the United States, certainly in our area. They have deep pockets; they have the money to take care of our infrastructure in this area.”

She noted that Beckley Water has indicated it will take on the PSD’s existing four employees at their current pay rate or better.

Also at the hearing, James G. Anderson III, lawyer for the PSD, said an audit revealed the PSD would have to seek rate increases year after year to stay afloat.

“As you know, this is one of the higher bills out here in this area,” he said.

PSD Manager Jerry Farley was the only employee to speak, stating, “I’m just kind of along for the ride ... you have to do what you have to do.”

At the April 24 meeting, the board made the motion to continue negotiations with the Beckley Water Company to purchase the Cool Ridge-Flat Top PSD, subject to the approval of the Raleigh, Mercer and Summers county commissions, because the PSD serves customers in the three-county area.

Anderson has presented information on the sale to each of the three county commissions and is awaiting their vote at upcoming meetings.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission must also approve the sale.

Calls placed to Anderson and Matthew Stanley, director of Beckley Water Company, were not returned.

The Cool Ridge-Flat Top PSD will have its next monthly meeting at 8 a.m. Wednesday at its offices on Cherry Creek Road.

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