Last updated: July 18. 2013 12:09PM - 107 Views
MICHAEL BROWNING, Staff Writer



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West Virginia American Water asked the state Public Service Commission earlier this year for permission to collect $15.4 million in additional revenue from its 171,000 customers. That would have been a 13.3 percent rate increase.
The PSC disallowed $10 million of the request and approved a 4.4 percent, $5.4 million rate hike instead.
With $10 million less to work with, the company attempted to find savings first by laying off 31 of its 310 employees.
The union objected. The PSC ordered the company not to lay them off.
West Virginia American Water also notified its public-sector partners in water projects that it will not proceed with those plans.
Now the Kanawha County Regional Development Authority plans to ask the PSC to force the company to provide the funds it had previously committed.
Officials had lined up a number of funding sources to tackle a $3.5 million project to bring safe water to 145 households in the Leatherwood and Reamer areas of Kanawha County.
The company had agreed to put up $140,000 in cash and take on a $1.2 million loan from the state Municipal Bond Board. The county had set aside about $475,000 in tax revenue and secured a $300,000 grant from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council.
In addition, the county applied for a $1.5 million federal grant through the West Virginia Economic Development Office.
Officials fear that because the water company has backed out of the project for the time being, the $1.5 million in federal money may be lost.
The regional development authority takes the position that because West Virginia American is a regulated utility with a monopoly in the county, the PSC can force it to provide the funding.
Well have to see.
West Virginia American Water has been a valued private partner in infrastructure for 15 years, providing $450 million for projects that improve lives for thousands.
But a company cant do with $5.4 million what it could do with $15.4 million.
Did the commission consider, when making its rate decision, that if it endangered the private-sector funding for water projects, it could endanger federal funding sources as well?
Distributed by The Associated Press
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