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Water companies consider merger
water faucet

A merger could be in the waterworks for two of Warren County’s utility providers. 

West Warren-Viola Utility District was created in June 1982, a merger and consolidation of West Warren Utility District of Warren County and Viola Utility District of Warren County. It operates under a board of directors. Members are appointed by Warren County’s executive. The utility serves over 6,200 customers in four counties. Tim Pelham is the current manager.

Warren County Utility District was formed in May 1981. It also operates under a board with members appointed by the county executive. The utility serves over 8,600 customers in six counties (Warren, Grundy, DeKalb, Van Buren, Cannon and Sequatchie). Anthony Pelham is the current manager. 

“Yes, Warren County Utility District and West Warren-Viola Utility District are evaluating the potential of a merger/consolidation,” said Anthony, when asked about speculation flowing in the community. “I believe both utilities are evaluating the advantages and disadvantages to customer rates and service, impact to employees, regional growth and development potential, and cost analysis.”

A merger between the two would mean all Warren County homes and businesses would be served by one provider, excluding those which get service from McMinnville Water Department. 

“If there is a merger, it would create a tremendous service area,” said Anthony. “Most people don’t realize that West Warren serves customers in four counties, while Warren County Utility serves customers in six counties. I’m in favor of whatever those boards wish to do.” 

When asked if any disadvantages would be to water customers, Anthony said that is not expected.

“I would hope that whatever is done would be of no harm, no detriment, to the customers,” said Anthony. “I would hope that a merger, if one is under consideration, would be a benefit to the customers. At the end of the day, our primary function is to provide a service to the community. That wouldn’t change.”

At their current rates, Warren County Utility District residential customers pay more than residential customers of West Warren-Viola. 

By their respective websites: WCUD’s residential users pay $28 for the first 2,000 gallons and all over 2,000 gallons is $5.30 per thousand.

West Warren Viola’s residential users pay $18.36 for the first 1,000 gallons, $7.75 per 1,000 gallons between 1,001 and 500,000 gallons, and $6.94 per 1,000 gallons over 500,000 gallons. 

Anthony was questioned if a dual rate structure would continue or if one set fee would be established.

“That is yet to be determined,” he said. “We do have slightly different fee structures right now. It would be up to the board to decide if that should change, if there is a merger.”

Tim Pelham has announced plans to retire this December. That decision could be a reason to consider a merger, says Anthony. 

“My father has made it publically known that he will be retiring in December, and that is likely one of the reasons to consider a merger,” said Anthony. “I do acknowledge that the appearance can seem self-serving to me as I would hope to remain as manager if the merger occurs and to also succeed my dad in his retirement. But, knowing the engineering side of operations at both utilities, in my opinion, the resilience, redundancy, and combined capabilities of a consolidated larger utility would be a benefit to customers, employees, and community.” 

A consolidation would require an agreement be reached between both utilities, followed by local and state endorsement.

“In order to merge, both utility boards would have to negotiate any merger terms and then vote to approve any merger agreement,” said Anthony. “If both boards approve, then the agreement would require local county and state ratification. Both organizations can hold current courses, do nothing, and continue as-is, or if the Boards deem it beneficial, merge with a vision of what water’s role may provide for this community and region for the next generation.”

Both utility district’s board members meet on the third Tuesday of each month. Warren County Utility District meetings are held at 4 p.m. West Warren-Viola Utility District meetings are held at 7 p.m. Aug. 17 will be their next meeting night.