Pennichuck survey shows strong level of opposition to Nashua, N.H., takeover

Study shows city leadership out of touch with public opinion, utility owner says...

MERRIMACK, NH, April 27, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- With the strongest level of opposition yet, residents expressed in no uncertain terms their opposition to the city of Nashua's attempted hostile takeover of Pennichuck Water by eminent domain in a recent survey conducted on behalf of Pennichuck Corp. by RKM Research and Communications.

According to the April 2005 survey, 62% of respondents oppose the city of Nashua's efforts to acquire Pennichuck Water Works using eminent domain, an increase of 17% since a similar survey was first conducted in December 2003. Only 22% support the city's effort, which represents a decline of 5% since December 2003.

When asked who would do a better job providing high quality, reliable water service, there was a 4 to 1 margin in support of the company. Fifty-nine% of respondents said Pennichuck, as opposed to 14% who said the city.

Results reveal that the attempted hostile takeover will be important come the November city elections when residents will take their opinions to the polls. In fact, 83% of survey respondents feel that the Pennichuck eminent domain battle will be important, and by more than a 2 to 1 margin, respondents are more likely to vote for candidates who oppose Nashua's efforts to take over Pennichuck.

"City leaders and proponents of the city's hostile takeover attempt need to realize that their actions are out of step with public opinion," said Donald L. Correll, Pennichuck president and CEO. Correll went on to note that 60% of respondents say they would vote against the city controlling Pennichuck through eminent domain and only 23% would vote in support.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents in the most recent survey said that the city shouldn't continue its effort, given the length and cost of the battle. R. Kelly Myers, president of RKM Research and Communications, said the results suggest that voters are growing wary of the city's ongoing effort. "Public support for the city's attempt to acquire Pennichuck Water Works has eroded over time," he said.

Disapproval ratings for the job Bernie Streeter is doing handling the Pennichuck Water Works situation have also reached an all-time high. In the most recent survey, nearly 60% of respondents expressed disapproval of the way that Mayor Streeter is handling this issue. According to the survey, 58% of respondents disapprove of the job the Mayor is doing regarding Pennichuck - a 7% jump from a survey conducted only this past December. Only 20% approved of the mayor's handling of the Pennichuck matter.

Correll said that as the public has become better informed about the attempted takeover, the length and cost of the battle and potential damages claims, support has dropped dramatically. He said a recently approved schedule by the NH Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has initial hearings in September 2006 and confirms that it will be at least another year and a half before a decision is reached by the PUC. During this period, costs and potential damages to the city will continue to mount. "This approved schedule from the PUC is consistent with what we have been saying since 2003 -- that this will be a long process with no certainty of the outcome and millions of taxpayer dollars down the drain," said Correll.

The survey of 400 Nashua residents was the seventh in a series of surveys conducted by RKM Research and Communications beginning in early December 2003. The surveys will be presented to the PUC when Pennichuck files its testimony. RKM Research and Communications is a full-service research firm specializing in leading edge quantitative and qualitative research services. All of the interviews were conducted by trained and professionally supervised interviewers. The survey has a maximum margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

Pennichuck Corp. (www.pennichuck.com) is a holding company involved principally in the supply and distribution of portable 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 southern New Hampshire area.

Graphics courtesy of RKM Research and Communications Inc.

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