Regarding the rate increase sought by the American Water Co.:
Newspapers and the public should be aware that the Kanawha County Regional Development Authority spends taxpayer money building water lines for the West Virginia American Water Co. to pump its water through and make a profit doing so, and they pay nothing for this privilege.
However, they have no problem asking for increased rates. This "lease" program has been in existence since the early 1990s without having ever been audited by the authority's board. No questions asked.
To date nearly 7,000 new customers have been added, creating approximately $4 million to $5 million in water company revenue. Taxpayers have spent at least $50 million and counting to provide this income for the company.
The company claims that it needs the rate increase because it is so expensive to build water lines in West Virginia. This argument does not hold for Kanawha County because the citizens build the water lines via the lease.
Further, the citizens of St. Albans, Pratt and Cedar Grove get a double pounding because they must build their own water lines, at their expense, and also contribute their tax money via the Kanawha County Commission to donate to the water company's lease and WVAWC profits. This is an unequal "bailout" by the authority.
The above communities should at a minimum be granted the right to tie their respective water companies' production to the authority's water grid and sell their excess water to the grid for a profit.
Why should taxpayer money only be used to support a private water company at the expense of our public water systems? Citizens of St. Albans could certainly use some of the monies in the lease to fund the upgrade to their present $2.375 million construction program.
Kanawha County communities should be granted a separate water rate structure that incorporates all of the tax money, federal grants and public loans given to the lease program.
A complete public accounting, as well as a lawyer skilled in water utility lease agreements ,should be hired to review this program before any further rate increases are considered.
R. Dan Halloran
EDITOR'S NOTE: Halloran is the former director of the Charleston Sanitary Board.