Phil Perry/Coal Valley News - Boone County Prosecuting Attorney/County Attorney Keith Randolph (left) and Boone County Commissioner Brett Kuhn during a recent budget committee meeting.

WHITESVILLE - After West Virginia American Water announced on Aug. 9 that it had completed its acquisition of the Boone-Raleigh Public Service District (PSD) water distribution system, local officials expressed a sigh of relief.

"Anytime you can free up cash, it is huge," said Boone County Commissioner Brett Kuhn. I'm happy for Seng Creek, Sylvester and Whitesville most of all. Now, those folks can have some certainty in relation to their water. When you don't have access to clean drinking water, it's almost like a third-world country. I think now they have some certainty, and I'm proud to have played a small role in this."

Boone County has made multiple bond payments for the PSD, including the latest installment approved by the Boone County Commission on Aug. 14 for $9,476.82.

"The greatest legal hurdle surrounded the approval of the Public Service Commission of the concerns first noted by the PSC's Consumer Advocate Division (CAD)," said Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph via email. "The CAD had initial concerns about the costs to be borne by the customers. That was certainly an understandable concern. However, thanks to the work of WVAW and the Board of the Boone Raleigh PSD, those concerns were thoroughly addressed, and an agreement was reached to allow the deal to proceed to completion."

Randolph spoke about a key component to the closing.

"We still had to seek approval by way of a hearing before the Public Service Commission," he added. "Harvey Ferrell (PSD board member) had to testify at the hearing, and he did an excellent job explaining the state of affairs at the PSD. No doubt his testimony was critical in the PSC approving the sale."

Via a press release by American Water, The Boone-Raleigh PSD, which serves approximately 470 customers along Rt. 3 in Boone and Raleigh counties, including the towns of Sylvester and Whitesville, has experienced a decline in customers and has struggled to maintain adequate service in recent years. The water system is in need of substantial upgrades and infrastructure replacements, including the water treatment plant that has received multiple deficiencies from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and is subject to a consent order with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The PSD was no longer able to provide adequate investments into the water system without significantly increasing customer rates, and West Virginia American Water will now step in to provide vital service for those customers at reasonable and affordable rates.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2402.