CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County commissioners unanimously agreed to provide $5,000 to help pay the Pratt Water Co.'s debt of more than $36,000 to the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board during Thursday's meeting.
The commissioners also agreed to provide $1,000 across-the-board raises to county employees effective Sept. 1.
Pratt owes the state agency $36,662 in retirement contributions for employees.
Commissioner Dave Hardy said he was loath to pay off the entire debt even though it could hold up a planned merger between the town-owned water system and West Virginia American Water.
The merger would help to improve the water system, which has struggled with finances and with providing clean water to its customers, Hardy said.
The Consolidated Public Retirement Board planned to file suit today if the funds were not paid, said Jeaneen Legato, the board's general counsel.
Hardy doubted that effort would be fruitful.
"If you get a judgment against the water system, good luck collecting," he told state officials at the meeting.
The commissioners also promised to work with Pratt officials on a plan for the city-owned water system board to pay off the debt.
"There is a slight chance that a lawsuit could still be filed," Legato admitted after the meeting.
She said she would strongly recommend the board hold off on the lawsuit since the commissioners agreed to pay $5,000 and promised to have a solution in place by Sept. 6, the date of their next meeting.
The board has sent the town about 20 certified letters about the debt and the state's intent to sue, said Jeff Fleck, the board's executive director.
Pratt Mayor Gary Fields said he had given the letters to an employee with the water system.
Fields initially asked the commissioners to pay the entire debt. However, he was pleased with what they did.
The commissioners took Fields to task for an oversight that could get the water system and the city sued.
"We're talking about years of mistakes," Hardy said.
Commission President Kent Carper asked Fields if the water system had any other outstanding bills that could endanger the proposed merger with West Virginia American Water.
Fields answered that they did not.