Letter to the Editor: Piedmont should reject Westernport water

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Mineral Daily News-Tribune

To the Editor:

Important information for Piedmont's water customers:

The new water rates will take effect on 9/25/2020. The increase ended up being 34.89% instead of the 58.17% that the city was asking for, so the water rate petition was a success. If they try to raise the rates again, you can be assured we will do another petition. No more rate increases without oversight by the PSC!

A lot of new information about Piedmont's finances was brought to light during the PSC audit. There were some major problems discovered that have not yet been mentioned by anyone at the city. We are going to be asking the mayor and council some very serious questions about the results of the PSC audit.

There are also still many questions we need to be asking our mayor and council about their plans to purchase water from Westernport. They have completed the "temporary" connection to Westernport's raw water line for less than $100,000 (it's not in use yet, but they've told us it has been tested and it's ready). The plan is to spend another $1.9 million (from a grant) to make another connection over the bridge so we can have the privilege of purchasing water from Westernport for $8,000 per month.

There is no reason we should ever purchase treated water from Westernport, especially since we have a fully-functional water treatment plant of our own. We should tell the mayor and council that we want to keep this new "temporary" connection to Westernport's raw water, and that they should negotiate a much cheaper rate to buy raw water from this connection. The water won't ever enter the town of Westernport's water treatment plant, so it adds zero cost for Westernport. We should pay a very low rate for this raw water that never even enters their town - the "temporary" connection is between Piedmont's and Westernport's raw, untreated water lines. It should be pennies for thousands of gallons.

Also, the town's explanation for how Piedmont is going to pay for the treated water doesn't make any sense at all. We have been told multiple times now by Greg Harvey that there will be no additional water rate increase when we first hook up to Westernport's water. He has said publicly that this new water increase that goes into effect next month will cover the cost of purchasing water from Westernport. He has not properly added up all of the expenses of the water plant, and somehow thinks there will be enough money to immediately start paying seven or eight thousand dollars per month to Westernport without another water rate increase.

This is impossible, and we are not being told the truth. The plan being forced on the citizens of Piedmont by our mayor and council is the most expensive and least future-oriented plan that they could choose. Our water is guaranteed to be more expensive if we follow their plan and give up our access to raw water. Our water rates will need to be increased another 50% or more to cover the cost of buying water from Westernport. Piedmont's water plan is flawed and should be dropped immediately.

We need to fight to keep the "temporary" Savage River connection that is already completed. They need to give the grant money back to the state and tell them to start over.

We are not finished with this fight. For the sake of Piedmont's future, we need to keep our access to raw Savage River water that we treat in our own water plant.

Let's keep our Savage water, and say "NO" to ridiculously expensive water projects that make other people rich and ruin Piedmont's future!

Denny Powers