Pratt to vote on water system sale in general election
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The nearly 500 registered voters in Pratt will get their chance to vote on whether the town's water system should be sold to West Virginia American Water on June 11.
The town's general election is already scheduled for June 11, said Colt Sandoro, a project manager for the county.
City Council must read an ordinance placing the issue on the ballot twice, Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said. The ordinance placing the proposal on the ballot should be read for the first time during the town council meeting on April 9, he said.
The ordinance will then be read for the second and final time in the May meeting, Hardy said.
Hardy is a native of Pratt. His mother and father still live in the small town in the Upper Kanawha Valley.
He has been a staunch supporter of the town selling the water works to West Virginia American Water.
"I'm very happy to see this issue get placed on the ballot," he said.
Hardy would have liked to see residents in the town vote on the proposed sale to West Virginia American Water sooner than June. However, state law prohibits a special election being held within 45 days of a general election, he said.
"The sooner this is done, the better," he said. "But it's important that we follow the letter of the law."
Hardy believes the town residents will approve the sale of the water company by a "landslide."
"I'm confident this will be passed by a resounding margin," Hardy said.
Pratt Mayor Gary Fields also believes the proposed sale will be passed by town residents. Fields has talked to many residents who believe the proposed takeover is the only way safe, clean water can be provided to Pratt customers.
"The water system is in really bad shape," Fields said.
Fields believes upgrades to the system would cost more money than what the town has available, and officials would have to raise rates to an "ungodly" amount to make the needed repairs.
"We just can't hang onto it," he said.
Like Hardy, Fields would like to have seen the issue be voted on before June.
"But there's really nothing we can do about that," he said. "I'm just tickled to get this taken care of."
The town's water plant, which was built in the 1970s, has become dilapidated. There have also been numerous problems with the intake pipe pulling water from the Kanawha River for treatment.
The water was found to be contaminated with haloacetic acids last June. The town had sent out letters to customers informing them about the contaminant.
Long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidneys and nervous and reproductive systems.
West Virginia American Water has agreed to purchase the aging system for $437,000. Company officials have also agreed to invest another $400,000 into the system to upgrade the system.
The company will shut down the Pratt water plant and eventually hook the town's system to the Charleston treatment facility through about 9,900 feet of pipeline.
West Virginia American Water will also help keep the system afloat until the takeover is finalized, Hardy said during a previous interview.
Hardy added that the commission would provide some funds to help town council draft the ordinances and cover the cost of the election. He believes this will cost no more than $3,000.
"It'll be a nominal amount," Hardy said.
There are 476 registered voters in one precinct in Pratt, according to figures provided by the Kanawha County Clerk's office.