Report recommending expansion of water service territory

Senior Hearing Examiner Alexander F. Skirpan Jr. recommended in a report last week that the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) affirm the expanded water service territory it granted to Central Water Company (CWC) last year and dismiss a petition filed by Botetourt County challenging the expanded territory.

Skirpan presented his report in a 30-page document dated November 25.

The SCC granted CWC a large water service territory that stretches from Daleville to Fincastle along US 220 and along Interstate 81 to just south of Buchanan and from there to Breckinridge Mill Road, Blacksburg Road and Etzler Road west of Fincastle.

CWC, which provides water to Ashley Plantation near Daleville, petitioned for the expanded water service area in November 2007 and it was granted in 2008.

The Botetourt Board of Supervisors agreed to challenge the SCC decision because county officials were not aware that CWC, through owner Steve Rossi, had applied for the right to serve the expanded territory.

At the heart of the county’s challenge was the argument that county officials had not been notified that CWC had applied for the expanded territory and the county had no opportunity to present evidence to the SCC against the expansion, and parts of the area were being served by other water companies.

County Attorney Elizabeth Dillon said, “We are disappointed and will be filing our comments on the report with the SCC prior to its final determination.” The county has 21 days to offer comments to the full SCC before it makes a final ruling.

In his report, Skirpan said there was no willful misrepresentation by CWC about notifying the county or the existence of other water companies in the expanded service territory, and even if the full SCC finds there was a willful misrepresentation, the petition for an expanded territory should still stand because “it is in the public interest for (CWC) to hold a certificate of public convenience and necessity to provide water service to its expanded service territory.”

Skirpan’s report also says CWC must file a detailed map of its expanded service territory, sufficiently detailed to show the exclusion of Botetourt Center at Greenfield, the exclusion of other certificated water systems within its expanded service territory, and its agreement with the Town of Fincastle, which clarifies that the two service territories do not overlap.

County officials argued that the CWC expanded water service area included existing water systems such as the one the county owns at Greenfield.

The hearings before the SCC examiner and his subsequent report focused on four issues:

whether CWC’s statement in its application for the expanded area was not being serviced by any public service at this time constituted a willfully made misrepresentation of a material fact; whether in providing public notice CWC willfully violated any of the SCC’s proper orders; and if either of the first two issues were found to be true, whether SCC regulations permit or require that the SCC revoke the certificate issued to CWC, and  whether CWC’s expanded service territory is in the public interest.

The first two issues were the subject of a March 25 hearing, and the later two were addressed in a September 28 hearing, the report says.

Skirpan said in his report that a public notice in The Roanoke Times was sufficient notice to the public about CWC’s petition, and the fact that county officials did not receive a notice as required by the SCC was not willful because CWC had sent one to then Board of Supervisors Chair Wendy Wingo, even though she did not receive it.

Skirpan said the county’s contention that it did not get a chance to present all its grounds for objection to the CWC expanded service territory was addressed in the September 28 hearing that essentially served as what he called a “do over” of the case because county officials and others were afforded the opportunity to present evidence challenging CWC’s original petition.

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