City of Milton, West Virginia American Water again take up company’s proposal for sale
MILTON — Discussions about selling the city’s water and wastewater systems to West Virginia American Water continued during Tuesday’s Milton Utilities Board and City Council meetings.
Last month, a representative of West Virginia American Water told Milton City Council members during a meeting that the company was interested in purchasing the city’s water system assets. The representative said the offer could be in the ballpark of $10 million, depending on if the city provided more information about the assets.
Since then, city leaders and residents met in a public meeting to further discuss the proposal, though no formal action was taken. After that meeting, some Milton officials said they wanted to hear more from the water company about the proposal and that a conversation was needed.
During both meetings, the company’s Manager of Business Development Jake Glance repeated West Virginia American Water’s proposal for the system. The company also plans to invest in the city’s water lines, pay off debt and grants associated with the systems and employ utility workers.
While addressing the City Council on Tuesday, Glance requested a motion be considered to release city documents. The council agreed to add a motion to the agenda to its next meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 6, so it can vote on the item.
Glance said the company arrived at the ballpark figure with information from West Virginia Public Service Commission reports. He also requested setting up in-person site visits with the city’s field staff.
“It would benefit the people of Milton, the business owners and the students that go to school here for us to, at the very least, have a serious discussion about this,” Glance said.
After Glance spoke to the City Council, a few members asked questions. Council member Tennis Adkins asked where the company would get the $10 million for the purchase. Glance said costs for an improvement project in one system are spread among all customers.
Council member Carl Harshbarger asked how the city could ensure the company would keep its promises after a sale. Glance said the company would likely make a plan, such as a 3- to 10-year plan, to address needs in the system. He said the company would also be responsible for maintaining the system it owned.
Harshbarger also asked about West Virginia American Water’s rates. According to the West Virginia Public Service Commission, West Virginia American Water’s rate is $40.92 for 3,400 gallons. Milton’s water rate is $33.10 for 3,400 gallons.
Council member Troy Nicely asked how long it could take to get a proposal from the company. Glance said it is typically three to four months with the holidays.
Christy Black, a Milton water customer who does not live in city limits, asked the Utilities Board about its plan to fix the water. Mayor Tom Canterbury said the process is ongoing and the city has replaced some water lines in recent years.
Dakota Miller, who represents the City Council on the Utilities Board, said a main project is replacing a line along Newmans Branch. The Utilities Board did hear an update on Newmans Branch in other business. A pre-bid meeting on the project is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17. Bids will be opened Tuesday, Dec. 6.
After the meetings, Black said she felt like some questions were answered but the answers were vague. She said she and other residents plan to be at the Dec. 6 meeting when the City Council will consider releasing documents to the company.
Ann Sansom, a Milton resident who has attended previous meetings where West Virginia American Water’s interest in the water assets was discussed, said Tuesday she was glad to see city leaders more receptive to discussion with the company.
Milton and the surrounding area have expanded in recent years and more growth is anticipated, with projects underway like the Grand Patrician Resort and the Nucor facility in nearby Mason County. Sansom said that growth should be an incentive for city leaders to solve the system’s issues.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth and things have been put on the back burner for so long,” Sansom said. “I think that should be an incentive for them to get moving to do things a little quicker. However, I’m not sure that it will be.”
McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch, covering local government in Huntington and Cabell County. Follow her on Twitter @Mckennahorsley.