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Falls Church Water Customer Unhappy With Failed Sale

Kirk Randall said Falls Church uses Fairfax County customers like a personal ATM machine.

The has not settled well with at least one customer. 

McLean resident Kirk Randall has gotten his water from the water company since 1959. Randall said unlike utilities such as Dominion Power and Washington Gas, the Falls Church City Council can charge its county customers pretty much whatever it wants.

"This means that over 120,000 Fairfax County customers will continue to pay nearly 50 percent more for their water than their neighbors," said Randall.

The City of Falls Church decided to end discussions with Fairfax Water Wednesday to sell the 80-year-old utility company. Mayor Nader Baroukh said the city took a business approach to the negotiations but is happy to continue providing water. The city sent out a in February and had emerge, including Fairfax Water. The city set the .

In a statement on their website, Fairfax Water said they tried to negotiate a sale, “that respects the citizens of both Falls Church and Fairfax County, Fairfax Water regrets to report that negotiations to merge the water systems have not been successful.” The statement continued to say: “The litigation in which the city has challenged the legality of Fairfax County's water regulation ordinance is expected to resume. That ordinance seeks to protect the interests of Fairfax County customers who purchase water from municipalities like the City of Falls Church. Fairfax County and Fairfax Water have filed motions to dismiss the City's lawsuit, and those motions are pending.”

In December, Fairfax County permitting it to exert regulatory review of the rates the city charges its county customers. Randall said Falls Church has sued the county over the ordinance and is preparing an intense lobbying effort to persuade the General Assembly to pass a law that would block it.

City of Falls Church officials did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

"Falls Church has already collected nearly $2 million of customer revenues to pay for its legal and lobbying expenses, and is fully prepared to spend an unlimited amount of its customers' revenues to defeat Fairfax County,” Randall said. “You can bet that if the city's residents had to pay these millions of dollars out of their own pockets rather than their county customers, the city council would have stopped this overcharging decades ago. The Falls Church City Council just doesn't want to lose its county customers, who it treats as its personal ATM machine."

Rob Jackson August 10, 2012 at 01:46 PM
In my opinion, the City of Falls Church is violating state law by refusing to justify its higher rates for water with Fairfax County. Also, the City is trying to have ratepayers rebuild its reserves that were unlawfully drained to keep up City spending. There is no way the City will get sufficient votes in the General Assembly to override Fairfax County's ordinance.
April August 11, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Great article. Thank you to Randall for speaking out and raising awareness.
Phil Duncan August 12, 2012 at 12:44 AM
To clarify: It is not the case that "The City of Falls Church decided to end discussions with Fairfax Water." Rather, the parties engaged in negotiations and were not able to come to mutually agreeable terms. The City had three meetings in July with Fairfax County and Fairfax Water to discuss a possible sale of the City’s water system. The City was clear throughout the discussions that any sale agreement would be based on the value of the City’s utility assets using standard utility valuation methods. Such methods peg the value of the system at between $44 million and $53 million. In a statement released by the City, Ira Kaylin, a City Council member and member of the City’s Public Utility Commission, said, "It was worthwhile discussing the matter with Fairfax Water. However, we could not justify selling the system below what it is objectively worth. Accordingly, there was no basis for an agreement." Falls Church Water has an 80-year track record of providing excellent water service, charging rates that are below average for the region and in the bottom quartile statewide. Also worth noting, as reported Aug. 10 in the Fairfax Times, is that Fairfax Water charges higher connection fees than does Falls Church.

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