River Road PSD and County Commission turn to MUB
Both request that MUB acquire River Road PSD
At the request of the River Road Public Service District (PSD) and the Monongalia County Commission, plans are underway for Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) to acquire the utility that provides water service to 780 customers. According to Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom, the acquisition was initiated when River Road PSD approached the Commission.
“This process began when the River Road PSD came to the County Commission requesting assistance. Members of the PSD explained that they lacked the resources to continue to manage the system,” Bloom said. “After some discussion the obvious solution was to turn to the one place that has the expertise to resolve the issue and that’s MUB.”
MUB General Manager Tim Ball agrees with Bloom that MUB is well positioned to assist River Road PSD.
“There are a few things that go into the equation of acquiring River Road PSD. Foremost, we already furnish the treated water distributed by the utility and occasionally assist the PSD with maintaining its system. This means that we have a very strong relationship. More importantly, the acquisition falls directly within the purview of our mission of protecting public health. We are not going to simply sit back and watch a closely related water utility struggle when they have expressed a need for assistance,” he said.
The first step in the acquisition will take place June 13th when an Operations and Maintenance Agreement (O&M) is presented to the River Road PSD board of directors.
“We are currently developing an O&M Agreement that details how the system will be managed. Our goal is to have that agreement before River Road’s board of directors for approval on June 13th. Upon passage, the agreement will go before MUB’s board of directors for vote on June 18th. The final step then is to forward the agreement to the West Virginia
Public Service Commission (PSC) for approval,” Ball explained. “We estimate that process will take about three months.”
Once the PSC approves the O&M Agreement, MUB will begin managing River Road PSD while finalizing the acquisition.
“While the O&M Agreement will permit us to begin operating as a single entity the actual acquisition may take as long as nine months to complete. This means that it’s likely the acquisition itself may not occur until 2019,” Ball said.
A challenge identified in the acquisition is a 30-year $3 million bond held by the PSD. This bond is currently funded by a rate charged to River Road PSD customers.
“One thing that cannot be emphasized enough is that the debt held by the River Road PSD will not impact our other current rates in any way. MUB customers will continue paying their current rates and River Road PSD customers will continue paying their current rates,” Ball said. “Customers themselves will notice no difference in service delivery or cost for those services.”
Ball adds that all members of the PSD are aware of what the acquisition means in terms of board members and staff.
“When the O&M agreement is approved by the PSC, MUB will effectively begin operating the PSD, including its accounts. While the PSD board will remain active until the acquisition is finalized, employment of the three staff members and one contractor will end. The staff are aware of this and agree that this is a necessary part of the process,” Ball said.
For Bloom, the acquisition is a matter of common sense.
“We appreciate MUB stepping-up and being a part of the solution. MUB’s leadership provides a model for collaboration and River Road PSD customers will benefit from that leadership,” Bloom said. “This is a win for everyone.”