CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials for the Kanawha Public Service District are working to pay off more than $300,000 in overdue bond payments.
According to Sara Rogers, executive director of the West Virginia Municipal Bond Commission, the Kanawha Public Service District was $324,340 in arrears at the end of March on bond payments for the district’s 18 separate accounts. Kanawha County officials learned about the shortfall last week.
“I’m concerned and disappointed at the same time,” said Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy, whose parents live in the area served by the public service district.
“That traditionally has been a very well-run organization.”
The Kanawha Public Service District was formed in 2010 when the Chelyan and Upper Kanawha Valley public service districts merged. The merger went into effect in 2011.
Kanawha PSD Chairman David Howell said the district is trying to pay down the debt. “In February, March and April we made full bond payments, plus paid back some of the arrearage,” he said.
He said the district first got into financial trouble around 2010, after it was discovered that a clerk had been underbilling customers to the tune of about $300,000. Howell also said the district took an unexpected financial hit of about $70,000 when a main water line under U.S. Route 60 burst.
“The bond covenants themselves say to pay your bills first and your bond payments next, so that’s what we did,” Howell said.
Howell also said the public service district’s rates weren’t high enough to completely cover the bond payments following the merger. He said officials for the district have gone to the state Public Service Commission to request a rate increase.
Kanawha PSD got permission to implement an interim rate increase at the end of last year, Howell said. That rate increase has allowed the district to start making its full bond payments again, he said.
Howell believes the permanent rate increase will solve the district’s money troubles.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper hopes so.
“I won’t just give them a pass on this,” Carper said. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
“I would hope they would get their own house in order,” Hardy said. “But if they don’t, the County Commission is going to have to intervene.”
Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.