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Will PSD Investigation Slow
Down Water Line Project?
by Robin Gordon
     

Updated on Wednesday*:

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Mt. Zion Public Service District attorney Tom Whittier asked county commissioners at their meeting on Monday morning to drop their general investigation against Mt. Zion PSD.

Whittier said that Mt. Zion PSD has asked for a rate change from the Public Service Commission.

“Because of this, the PSC people have visited several times. Right now, the commission is undergoing, pursuant to Rule 19-A (pertaining to a rate change), an investigation of the finances, so it turns your investigation into having a duplication of efforts, which the commission is looking into the PSD on one hand and, on the other hand, because the PSD has asked them to.

“So we have two cases pending, essentially for the same thing, reviewing the financial records of the district and reviewing the general business of the district,” said Whittier.

“The preference expressed by Virginia McDonald of the USDA was not to have two investigations pending,” said Whittier.

He added that Leslie Anderson, staff attorney for the PSC, “would like to see just one investigation.”  

Commissioner Chip Westfall said, “We need a letter from her saying that.”

Commissioner Bob Weaver said that Anderson “would not put anything in writing, which makes it very difficult.”

Whittier said, “If you would drop the current investigation, that would not drop your ability to re-open or ask for a further investigation, if you felt things deteriorated in the future or if you felt the PSC investigation was inadequate ongoing to the 19-A.”

Weaver said the commission had “a duty to the people of Calhoun County to decide what the problems were, and what led us to this significant problem . . . and how we got in this terrible problem.”

“Leslie Anderson speaks of moving ahead. Well, I don’t want to move ahead. I’ll be clear to you and I’ll be clear to the Mt. Zion PSD. We will not drop this investigation. If there is any way we can facilitate in getting your rate increase, we will do that,” said Weaver.

Commissioner Kevin Helmick expressed how hard they have worked to help get the water line, and said he “didn’t want to give up.”

Norma Collins of Mt. Zion PSD explained to commissioners that the PSC reviewed the PSD records for the past year, “because, basically, that is when our problems started.”

“With this Rule 19-A, we are going back to June of 2007, which is basically the same investigation, just going back farther . . .,” said Collins, “That is why (the PSC) investigation is covering your investigation.”

“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,” said Whittier.

Westfall said, “This is my opinion: We have done everything conceivable to get the water project moving . . . and I was even willing to stop the investigation, if it meant holding up the water; so be it, but (not) until we get it in writing from the West Virginia PSC exactly what they are saying.”

Whittier replied, “I will endeavor to do this.”

After talking to Anderson at an earlier time, Weaver said it was his opinion that there “was a strategy not to investigate the Mt. Zion PSD in the matter that we would like to have a report, so that the public and the people of Calhoun County will know exactly what happened here in the management of the PSD over the past few years.”

He said he would like the commission to meet with the PSC in Charleston: “We want to be clear in exactly where their investigation is leading.”

Whittier said, “You can be satisfied that you have moved things ahead, with the help of hard work and volunteers. It is much better than it was, and the water project is moving ahead.”

Collins said, “We, the PSD, are making a commitment to the county commission with this letter (see letter below from Sharon Postalwait) to satisfy all the questions that you have.”

 Letter to the County Commission 

Calhoun County Commission:

In regards to the General Investigation filed by the Calhoun County Commission with the WV Public Service Commission: Case No. 09-1565-PSWD-PC, the Mt. Zion PSD Board of Directors has been committed to complete cooperation with both the Calhoun Co. Commission and the WVPSC.

The WVPSC has requested and reviewed PSD records, which since November 2009, are complete. Troy Eggleton of the WVPSC visited the PSD office and collected financial records and minutes. According to Mr. Eggleton at the time of his visit the WVPSC is pleased with the effort the current Board of Directors and Budget/Finance Committee has made to correct former administrative dysfunctions. The PSD is in the process of reforming and creating the necessary records to complete the 2009 Annual Report. PSD Counsel Tom Whittier has filed a motion with the WVPSC for an extension of time to complete this task.

In addition to this task, the Mt. Zion PSD is in process of awarding the Rt. 16 Sand Ridge waterline extension. A pre-construction conference is scheduled for Apr. 22 at 11 a.m. After all the stumbling blocks over the past few years, it looks like the project is cleared for financing according to Virginia McDonald of the USDA Rural Development office.

In order to clear the Mt. Zion PSD to receive funds, we request the Calhoun County Commission drop the General Investigation filed previously. With this request comes a complete commitment of the Mt. Zion PSD Board of Directors and staff to comply with and cooperate with the Calhoun County Commission and commissioners in every way.

Your help in making this project a success is greatly appreciated.

Sharon Postalwait, Chair, Mt. Zion PSD Board of Directors

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