|By Dianne Weaver|
Mt. Zion PSD attorney Tom Whitter, appearing before the Calhoun Commission Monday, is now giving a second reason why the commission should drop their investigation of the Mt. Zion Public Service District.
The commission requested an investigation by the West Virginia Public Service Commission of the PSD last fall, following a myriad of problems regarding its operation, failure to obtain financial records and nearly-defaulting on a $5.2 million waterline extension to Millstone, Sand Ridge, and Russett, including the extension of service to southern Calhoun.
The Mt. Zion PSD passed a resolution last fall in support of the commission's investigation.
Whitter first requested the investigation be dropped because he felt it would hold up funding to the project. But Virginia McDonald with the USDA said the commission's investigation was not a problem, and a pre-closing meeting is scheduled at Arnoldsburg for April 22 at 10 a.m.
The project appeared to be a go with funding after two contractors dropped their lawsuits against the Mt. Zion PSD.
WV Public Service attorney Leslie Anderson, supporting the investigation be dropped, told commission president Bob Weaver that many of the PSD problems have been resolved and it might be important to "move ahead."
The WV Public Service Commission has issued another delay in concluding their investigation, with the agency now saying it will be concluded in January, 2011.
Attorney Whitter is now asking the commission to drop the investigation because of what he says is a duplicate investigation required by the WV-PSC for the Mt. Zion PSD in seeking a rate increase.
Commission president Bob Weaver told Whittier he believes the commission has a constitutional duty to the people about "What got us into this terrible problem."
"The Public Service Commission declined to put any of this in writing," Weaver said, after which attorney Whittier said he would try to get the matter in written form.
Commissioners Westfall and Helmick both affirmed that the investigation would not be dropped without clear answers why it should be.
Whitter told the commission, "The board members of the PSD have the same goals as you. They want to find out what happened and know how to correct it in the future, and keep this from happening again."
Weaver said, "It seems to me that the Mt. Zion PSD board, if this is what they want, should rescind their support for our investigation."
Weaver repeated his comments at the Mt. Zion PSD board meeting later Monday, after which board member Roscoe Gainer said "I can't see that there is a problem with the investigation."
Whittier responded by saying "If there are two or three investigations you still won't be able to find out what you want to know."
Weaver said, "Surely we will have some answers. So far, all I've heard is there are very few records, and the WV-PSC has what records exist."
Based on Whittier's statements, board member Gainer said "I'm not clear on how the commission's investigation is going to hold up our rate increase request."
Whittier indicated the investigation would not likely hinder the rate increase request, it would "just be more work."
Dick Ullum, who works for the PSD, said "As a customer of the Mt. Zion PSD and you get a rate increase without clearing up all these problems, I'd think it would be a good case for a civil suit against the PSD."
The three-member board then voted unanimously, a second time, to re-affirm their support of the commissions investigation.
Commissioner Weaver expressed displeasure to attorney Whittier, referring to a comment made earlier by Whittier - "If I was a county commissioner seeking re-election, I wouldn't want it be known I was holding up this project."
Weaver said, "This commission has gone the extra mile to help the PSD get right-of-ways and get this project unstuck, way beyond what we're supposed to do, and it's sad to see blame now shifted our way."
"We appreciate the PSDs current efforts to get things back in shape," Weaver said.
During Monday's PSD meeting, Norma Collins told the board the Calhoun Commission has signed a grant for $65,000 to make repairs to the sewage system.
A report said there are still water leaks in the system, problems with past due accounts, and numerous infrastructure problems.
Saundra Ballengee reported that 37 customers will receive shut-off notices.
Engineer Jim Hildreth suggested a change order be made for a reduction in pipe size from an area between Crummies Creek and Orma, mostly to facilitate movement to prevent stagnation. He indicated there are not enough customers in that area to make the system work properly. The pipe would be reduced from 10" to 8".
J. F. Allen requested a reduction in a water bill they received after their company broke a line. The board reduced the bill from $700 to $500, since the company helped with the repairs.