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Council Ready to Test Waters to See Value of Falls Church Water

REI letter to be sent to public and private utility companies to test interest in embattled water company.

Council Ready to Test Waters to See Value of Falls Church Water

City of Falls Church City Council voted unanimously Monday night to send out a Request for Expressions of Interest to see if public or private utility companies would be interested in purchasing Falls Church Water.

City Manager Wyatt Shields said the process would take several months. He said Council would review the responses as they evaluate options for the future of the water and sewer systems.

“Staff and Council have been considering this option for some time,” Shields said in an interview.

For more than 80 years, Falls Church Water has provided water to homes in the city and has grown to supply water to the surrounding Fairfax County. The system covers about 33 square miles and provides water to more than 34,000 customers, 90 percent of them in Fairfax County.

Shields said the council would discuss the future of the water system with industry leaders and stakeholders over the next several months. A sale would require approval by way of a vote from City of Falls Church residents. If it is decided that a sale is the preferred option, the issue would be presented for a vote in the Nov. 6 General Election, Shields said. Public responses to the REI are due by 2 p.m. on Friday, March 2.

Mayor Nader Baroukh and Vice Mayor David Snyder both expressed support for the REI at Monday’s meeting.

In a written statement, Baroukh said seeking industry input is the next step and Council will consider all options.

“I look forward to future conversations about this,” Baroukh said during the meeting.

Shields said there is a long way to go before any decisions are made. He said it’s important to hear what the taxpayers have to say about the possibility of selling the water company. There are no planned public meetings to get feedback from the taxpayers. Shields said that would come once the city has heard from possible suitors and industry experts.

“Once that evaluation is done, we’ll probably have more information for the public,” Shields said. “We’re hoping to get a broad group of suitors.”

In December of 2010, an Alexandria-based lawyer against Falls Church Water alleging the utility company had overcharged Fairfax County customers between 2007 through 2009. In May, the council voted unanimously not to pay the claims after being advised by their lawyer but to take the claims through the legal process.

In July, Dranesville Supervisor John Foust has proposed that Fairfax County .

For more information on the REI process, visit www.fallschurchva.gov/waterfuture.

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