Pennichuck seeks dismissal of case before PUC to take utility through eminent domain

New Hampshire utility claims city of Nashua has failed to make its public interest case. The city originally filed its case on March 24, 2004, and was required in that filing to prove that the city has the financial, managerial and technical capability to operate the water system it seeks to take from Pennichuck...

MERRIMACK, NH, Sept. 6, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Pennichuck Water Works today filed a motion with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Concord for summary judgment to dismiss the city of Nashua's petition to take Pennichuck Water Works through eminent domain.

The city originally filed its case on March 24, 2004, and was required in that filing to prove that the city has the financial, managerial and technical capability to operate the water system it seeks to take from Pennichuck. After hearing oral arguments in the summer of 2004, the commission stated, "We agree that Nashua has not filed testimony as required..." However, rather than dismiss Nashua's petition at that time, the commission required Nashua to file testimony "on its technical, financial and managerial capability to operate the public utilities as requested and how the public interest would be served by the taking." The deadline for submission of this information was November 22, 2004.

Since then, the city has testified that it does not plan to run the water system and will instead hire an outside company to do so. Nashua, however, has failed to provide any details regarding its plan. More than 17 months after filing its case and nine months after the city was required to provide information regarding its qualifications to operate the water utility, the city has failed to provide any information about its proposed operator or any operating agreement.

"For more than two years, since the city began their efforts to take Pennichuck through eminent domain, we have stated repeatedly that they do not have the capacity or even a plan for how they would operate or manage the water utility. That remains as true today as it was two years ago," said Donald L. Correll, Pennichuck CEO.

In its filing, the company stated, "The issue of Nashua's technical, managerial and financial capability to own a water utility that serves over 24,000 customers throughout Southern New Hampshire is far more than a mere technicality. It goes to the heart of Nashua's case. It is the critical element that Nashua must prove to meet its burden of proof."

"To date, the city has spent over $1.2 million to take over Pennichuck, yet for all the time and money spent they still can not answer the most fundamental questions regarding their plan to run our company," said Correll. "Given the city's disregard for the critical steps in this process, one has to question whether the city of Nashua fully understands the magnitude and the complexity of what they are proposing before the PUC."

"Next week the company will be presenting oral arguments before the New Hampshire Supreme Court in support of its claim that the city did not have a plan and waited too long to file its eminent domain case. Now, a year and a half after filing their case, the city is still trying to evolve their plan," said Correll.

Pennichuck Corp. (www.pennichuck.com) is a holding company involved principally in the supply and distribution of potable water in southern and central New Hampshire through its three regulated water utilities. Its non-regulated, water-related activities include operations and maintenance contracts with municipalities and private entities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The company's real estate operations are involved in the ownership, management and development of real estate in the greater Nashua, New Hampshire area.

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