By Tamara Pettit

…….Contrary to what a local tv station reported, the result of the recent Public Hearing on whether or not Tomlinson PSD and Hancock PSD will be required to take over the Newell Company’s water and sewage was NOT that both PSDs will be required to do so.  There is no done deal.  The Newell Company has filed a petition with the PSD to be declared distressed or failed company and made the Hancock County Commission, Tomlinson PSD and Hancock PSD parties in the petition.

…….Last week’s evidentiary hearing was the first step in the process to make Tomlinson and Hancock PSDs take on the debt and customers of Newell.   The Newell Company produced evidence of their distressed and/or failing status at the hearing.   According to public records the Newell Company owes $750,000 to its Fiesta Division and $700,000 to Wesbanco for a total debt of $1.5 million.   In the past 6 months their water division lost $100,000 while their sewage division showed a profit of $20,000.

…..Do Tomlinson and Hancock PSD have to take them on?   According to the WV Statute the PSC has several choices and one is to designate the closest PSDs to assume operation.  The other choices are to order the reorganization of the company or to appoint a receiver.   I think neither of the latter is likely to happen.  I think  merger will be ordered.

……Back in May the Hancock County Commission paved the way for both Tomlinson and Hancock PSDs to each apply for $50,000.00 matching grants to explore the feasibility of acquiring the Newell Company’s water and sewage operation.   The Commission pledged a $50,000.00 match for each.

….. The PSC really did not have its act together for the meeting and I would guess it was an administrator or a clerkwho did not do correct followup.   We all know the argument that there was no place in Newell large enough to host the meeting did not hold water. A court reporter is required to make these hearings official and the PSC had not scheduled one.  My call to the PSC was returned by Susan Small who is in charge of media.  She did tell me that the clerk who was in charge of scheduling the meeting said she had spent several days trying to locate something in the Newell area.  She suggested if I knew of someplace to hold a public hearing in Newell to share with them.  I plan on sharing.  A second public hearing on the issue is planned.

……So in addition to the affected parties, two people showed up to protest.   My guess is there would have been a lot more had the hearing been held in Newell.  But, would the result have been any different?   Probably not.  The customers of the Newell Water Corporation are the real victims of the Newell Company’failure as is the Tomlinson and Hancock PSD who now must pick up the customers.   My guess is a rate increase will be in the works for all.

….Looking back, the Newell Company did apply for a rate increase in 2018.  Since Tomlinson purchases water from the Newell Company it opposed the rate increase.  The rate increase of 32.5 would have provided financial relief of $161,917.00 to the Newell Company.  The PSC granted a 29.5 rate increase and the relief was $147,356.   Tomlinson’snew rate was $2.10 per 1,000 gallons.

……In forcing Tomlinson and Hancock to assume theWesbanco debt, shouldn’t the Fiesta division of the Newell Company be forced to take on the amount owed to them?

……..Not quite sure I agree with Mike Nixon’s assertion that the Newell Fire Dept. is the body in absence of a government for an unincorporated area.   State statute also requires that governing bodies be elected by the citizens.   In an unincorporated area, it is the Hancock County Commissioners (all of whom were in attendance at the public hearing) who comprise the governing body.