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Minimum Bid to Buy Falls Church Water Set at $44M

Invitation for bids to go out Wednesday.

Falls Church city council voted 6-1 Monday night to authorize Wyatt Shields to send out invitations to bid on the water system starting Wednesday.

Shields, city manager, said the minimum acceptable bid will be set at $44 million. Sealed bids from public and privately owned utility companies are due May 25.

“All the bidders will have to do is provide us with a number,” Shields said. “On May 25, there will be a public meeting and we’ll put each company’s bid up and conduct it auction style.”

The city sent out a in February and received interest from . is one of the suitors interested in the 33-square mile water system. Shields said the invitation will include a list of all of the water company’s assets and the successful bidder must guarantee employment of current workers for a year. The successful bidder must also have a rate freeze for one year, Shields said. The city’s sewage system is not included in the sale.

Vice Mayor David Snyder adamantly opposed the sale of Falls Church Water at council’s meeting. He said the proposal to sell the water company was not something he could agree with and regretted agreeing with the sale in the past. City residents will vote on a referendum on Nov. 6 regarding the sale of the water company. Council reserves the right to reject all bids, Shields said.

“I’m not willing to live with the proposed minimum bid,” he said.

Shields said $30 million of the money produced from the sale would go toward paying off the debt accrued financing the water system and the pension fund for its employees.

Lawrence Webb said the water company has been one of if not the top issue since he joined council four years ago. He said the city has come out on the short end of litigation in the past and now is a better time than any to sell the water company.

“We’ve come to a pivotal point to put something on the table but ultimately it will come down to a referendum if we will or will not sell the water company,” Webb said.

The embattled water company has had its share of legal issues. In late 2010 and early 2011, several , arguing they were overcharged for services. In May, council . In August, a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge refund cases against the water company.

The city will host a town hall meeting on April 21 at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers in City Hall. For more information on the future of the water system, click here.

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