West Virginia has hundreds of small towns struggling to provide big-city services to remote areas. Getting city water to outlying areas involves tremendous costs.
The town of Pratt tried valiantly for years to make a go of its water department, even borrowing money from the Kanawha County Regional Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program.
But last summer, Pratt's problems came crashing down. County engineer John Luoni reported that the water was contaminated with haloacetic acids, with a reading of 66 parts per billion. The federal maximum is 60 parts per billion.
West Virginia American Water was willing to buy out the town - until the company discovered the IRS had filed a lien against the town for $140,000.
Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy, who grew up in Pratt, took particular interest in this problem.
Now the county commission, the water company and the town of Pratt have reached a deal that will allow the town to settle $600,000 of its debts.
The company will pay about $437,000 for the water system. The county commission will give $90,000 to $180,000 in coal tax revenue toward the project.
West Virginia-American Water will spend invest $1.8 million to extend a water line nearly two miles to bring water from Charleston to Pratt via an underwater pipeline from Glasgow and Cedar Grove on the other side of the river.
The deal also will allow the company to improve water quality in Hansford, Mahan and other Paint Creek communities. The company also will extend service to two West Virginia Turnpike plazas.
Bringing city water to the area will help raise property values and should make the area more attractive to economic development.
Not only will the water be better, but it will be less expensive. Pratt charges $36.90 for the first 1,500 gallons used each month. West Virginia Water charges $21.67.
The deal requires the approval of voters in Pratt. Surely they will jump at the chance to do that.