CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials for West Virginia American Water Co. probably will have to find a way to retire the Pratt water plant's $375,000 debt if they plan to take over the troubled water system.Kanawha County commissioners learned at a meeting Tuesday that an audit of the town's water system, sewer system and town government has been completed. Finances in the revenue-strapped town are so bad that town officials no longer can afford to keep operating the water plant, which provides service to about 750 people."I don't think we found any surprises," said Colt Sandoro, assistant to County Manager Jennifer Sayre. The Pratt water system owes almost $375,000, including $75,000 in debts to the Internal Revenue Service and close to $235,000 in loans.County officials have been trying to broker a deal for West Virginia American Water to take over running the water plant. West Virginia American already buys water from the town of Pratt to serve customers in the Paint Creek area.Sandoro told County Commissioners Kent Carper and Dave Hardy on Tuesday that water company officials are close to figuring out whether they can afford to take over the system or not. Commissioner Hoppy Shores was stranded at home without electricity and did not attend Tuesday's meeting.Sandoro said water company officials should know within about two weeks if they can make a takeover work. Carper said county officials might have to help cover some of Pratt's debts, but said the bulk of the debt probably will be turned over to the water company.
West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said company officials have not yet decided to take over the Pratt water plant but said the system's debt will be one of the things they take into consideration while making their decision.Turning over control of the water plant will require a vote by Pratt residents. County officials hope to work out an arrangement for West Virginia American to take over running the plant temporarily until an election can be scheduled.Sandoro and Carper are confident that water company officials can find a way to make the proposed takeover work."The water company needs to step up to the plate on this," Carper said. "I believe they will."Also Tuesday, Carper and Hardy voted to release $20,000 in funding to the Handley and Tornado volunteer fire departments. County officials had held up releasing the funds until fire officials released federal Form 990 tax documents.Reach Rusty Marks at email@example.com or 304-348-1215.