CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The only way Pratt town officials can dig themselves out of an ever-deepening financial hole is to sell the town's outdated water plant to West Virginia American Water.
"We're sinking. I know it and you know it," Pratt Mayor Gary Fields admitted to Kanawha County commissioners Kent Carper, Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores at a regular meeting Thursday.
The meeting marked the second time in a row county commissioners asked Fields in to discuss the town's finances. Pratt owes the state retirement board about $32,000, and has IRS tax liens filed against both the town itself and the water plant.
Between the liens, penalties and interest, Pratt owes about $150,000, according to town attorney Larry Kopelman.
Hardy told Fields he was not trying to pick on the town, and conceded that the mayor inherited many of the town's financial problems. But he said county officials need to know about the town's finances to help find a solution to the problem.
"We have to define the problem at some point," Hardy said. "Pretty soon you're going to have to put it out on the table. How much does the town owe?"
Pratt keeps an average bank balance of about $1,100. Although town officials have been making payments on the IRS liens, Pratt has very little income and continued maintenance costs at the aging water plant.
After years of resistance, Pratt officials have agreed to turn over the water plant to West Virginia American Water, assuming the water company is still willing to buy the plant.
"It's the one chance you've got to pay off your debt," Hardy said.