WV Public Service Commission begins hearing following investigation

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The West Virginia Public Service Commission is taking action against Timberline Four Seasons Utilities following numerous customer complaints.

PSC Chief Administrative Law Judge Keith George presided over an evidentiary hearing held at Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County.  After complaints of service problems, billing concerns, and tax issues, residents and property owners attended the hearing to learn more about the option of putting Timberline Utility’s water and sewer utility into receivership, a process in which a legally appointed receiver acts as custodian of a company’s assets or business operations.

The commission began an investigation into Timberline Utilities on August 17, 2018, to determine whether the utility company should be placed into receivership.  Public Service Commission utility analyst and forensic accountant Tara Gilkey and commission engineer Jonathan Fowler shared their investigation findings reporting business mismanagement, improper operation practices, and employee shortages.

“This is affecting, not only the homeowners here that have water and sewer from this company, but also the people who work for this company, and also businesses who rent homes here for recreational purposes.  They’re not going to want to be coming here when these things are happening,” said property owner and resident Janet Deal.

On November 30, the West Virginia Public Service Commission released a copy of the Final Staff Memorandum:

“Staff recommends that the Administrative Law Judge conclude that Timberline Four Seasons Utilities, Inc. is ‘unable or unwilling to adequately serve its customers or has been actually or effectively abandoned by its owners, or that its management is grossly and willfully inefficient, irresponsible or unresponsive to the needs of its customers.’”

The memorandum specifies failed payment collection on water and sewer services provided, failure to satisfy multiple years of federal and state tax liabilities, engaging in gross mismanagement, failing to provide accurate usage amounts of bills and more.  The delinquent public utility taxes total more than $13,000 with arrearages of more than $200,000 as of October 2018.

The utility was also cited for the lack of timely filing of the 2017 Public Service Commission annual report and lack of filing of 2017 state and federal tax returns.  The PSC reports the most current annual report was the one filed for the 2016 fiscal year.

“The worst outcome would be for them to go into receivership and then take it back over, and the poor people who took the receivership would have to pay millions of dollars to get the thing upgraded, then never get reimbursed for this,” said Deal.

Certain complaint cases were consolidated in August and addressed during the hearing.  Timberline Utility services 428 water customers and 743 sewer customers.  A precautionary boil water advisory has been in effect since October 29 for properties serviced by the utility because of a lack of proper staffing.

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