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What has happened to our city! When bad things happen to good people

The following are some emails that we have received from supporters who have sent emails to Council members and/or the media:

To all concerned:
The top 10 reasons why our local government should not take over our local water company:

10. Most everyone knows that government does not operate a business as efficiently as private enterprise. Payrolls will be padded, and other cost controls will be reduced or will become non-existent.

9. The Public Service Commission, in my view, does an excellent job of regulating the various privately owned utilities. Should our local government obtain ownership of the water company, the citizens will lose the oversight of the PSC, and the local government can do what it wants, at any time.

8. There appears to be a major concern that profits made by the privately owned water company will disappear, that is, go overseas. So what! Profits represent a very minor portion of the water company's revenues, and the bulk of the revenue goes to the local mainstream economy, ---such as payroll, and materials. That's why they operate a business, --- to make a profit! Before the German conglomerate took over, no one expressed any concern whatsoever, even though the business was not locally owned! Did the profits stay, ---locally? They did not!

7. Our local government wants to own the water just to get their greedy paws on the profits! It's just another sneaky way to raise revenue and expand existing services. Oh, for awhile, they won't raise water rates, but be assured that they will do so, --- and whenever they want.

6. Even though I've followed the news as much as I can, I've yet to see any concern voiced about all of the citizens who live on fixed incomes. Shouldn't our local representatives be concerned for these folks who would be adversely effected by water rate increases imposed at will by our local government?

5. Our local government has already spent over 1/4 million dollars for a "study" to determine the cost to purchase the water company. What a waste of money! The actual cost to purchase will most likely be 5-7 times higher than the figures resulting from the "study".

4. According to the budget proposed by our Mayor, debt service represents 10-11% of the total budget proposal. That percentage will climb considerably should the city be successful in acquiring the water company. Frankly, I resent my tax dollars being used in this wasteful fashion.

3. Rather than concentrating on the ridiculous notion to acquire and operate a company that is not broken, and does not need fixing, our local government should be concentrating on more important matters, ---budget deficits. Sadly, bureaucrats and government officials can't seem to realize that some non-essential services should be cut entirely, or reduced in order to reduce budget deficits. Instead they concentrate on increasing revenues. And, to prove their point to the public, they always want to cut essential services, thus deluding citizens that tax increases are necessary. They can't seem to determine what is, ---and what isn't, ---essential.

2. I've seen several "letters to the editor" in our local newspaper written by some very prominent business persons, and, former and current local officials. I've asked myself why are these eloquent persons so interested in our local government owning the water company? My conclusions are various. Some, because they have always been involved in government, think bigger government is better government. However, the most important reason follows:

1. FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!!! Bonds will have to be issued if and when the local government acquires the water company. How else can it be paid? There are those who will financially benefit by buying tax-exempt Municipal Bonds. Bonds can be volatile. Generally, as stocks decline, bonds sell at a premium. Sometimes they sell at a discount. Be that as it may, the interest earned is tax-exempt. And, there will be those few who will make commissions from the sale of said bonds. Only a chosen few have the wherewithal and knowledge how the system works.

—William Kaenzig

Dear Paul Brooks, Mike Scanlon, Chuck Ellinger, David Stevens, Teresa Isaacs;

Why is Lexington looking to own/purchase the water company? I would like each of you to please list your specific reasons or the reasons that the people you represent have voiced to you as to why Lexington should try to buy the water company.

Here are my thoughts. I believe that the pursuit to purchase the water company is frivolous and a total waste of our tax money! The water company is not for sale. If the water company will not sell to Lexington, condemning the water company will waste even more of our time and money. With the budget problems the city is facing, I do not want to compound the budget problems by adding more costs that will eventually be passed on to me in the form of taxes. I am happy with the current water supply. We have already spent over $270,000 dollars (from the report on WKYT channel 27) of our tax money; I do not want the government to spend another dime on purchasing a water company that is delivering quality water and most of all is NOT for sale!

I would appreciate each of your responses.

Thank you.
—Jeff Kirkner

I am against a government takeover of the water company for many reasons, not the least of which you listed in your top 10 reasons. Add my name to any petition that will oppose this ridiculous notion.
—Phil Pulliam

When I first learned of the Fayette County Government's proposal to "condemn" and take over the Kentucky American Water Company I thought the government officials must be out of their minds. I was sure it wouldn't get off the ground. But now I know they are completely serious and I think it's time we all recall what happens when we become too complacent with what happens to others (even if they are large companies).

This is my revision of a poem by Martin Niemoller a German Protestant Pastor, 1892-1984. They came for Kentucky American Water Company, and I didn't object - For I wasn't one of their Customers; They came for Kentucky Utilities, and I didn't object - For I wasn't one of their Customers; They came for Columbia Gas Company, and I didn't object - For I wasn't one of their Customers; They came for Alltel, and I didn't object - For I wasn't one of their Customers; Then they came for me---A Small Business And there was no Company big enough left to object.

So, you think this could never happen in Lexington? The Germans didn't think this could happen in Germany, either.but I'm sure you remember what the Nazis under Hitler's regime did to that country.

What the LFUCG does about Kentucky American Water Company will affect not only Lexingtonians but all those in surrounding counties who receive their water service from Kentucky American!

My question now is: who is next after Kentucky American Water Company? Wake up Lexington! If this can happen to Kentucky American Water Company, it could just as easily happen to you or your small business!!!

P.S. This is the original poem: They came for the Communists, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Communist; They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Socialist; They came for the labor leaders, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a labor leader; They came for the Jews, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Jew; Then they came for me - And there was no one left to object. (Martin Niemoller, German Protestant Pastor, 1892-1984)
—Wanda Hughes

As a resident and homeowner of Lexington I am opposed to the Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government starting any costly and prolonged condemnation proceeding to takeover Kentucky American Water Company. I do not believe that it is in the resident's best interest at this time to pursue this action. It is respectfully requested that you vote against such action.
—Robert J. Fisher

Hi, I am opposed to the city buying out the water company for at least 3 reasons:

1. We can't afford it. It will cost more than estimated. I'm disappointed we spent $200K already for the survey. Saying water company income will offset (or heaven forbid, lower) taxes is a sham like the lottery income that was supposed to fund our schools.

2. There are very few things the government can do better, or more cost effectively, than the private sector.

3. Your time, efforts, and enthusiasm should be directed to existing problems like economic development, schools, roads and traffic, limbs, etc.

Will you please let me know where you stand on this issue?

—Mark Fielder

Dear Ms. Isaac,
I want to express my strong opposition to the condemnation of the water company. The value range in the report you received makes a decision to go forward very risky for the city and its residents. Given the performance of the city with debris pickup from the ice storm, I would say the city has plenty on its plate without acquiring the water company by force, since it's not for sale.
—Bailey Kurtz, Jr. CPA

Dear Mrs. Isaac,
Allow me to tell you why I wouldn't trust the City Council to manage the water that flows into my home and my family drinks daily without second thoughts about its quality. Why don't you start by winning our trust by managing the things that are out for grabs like the quality of the air we breath and the pollution of the environment we live in. At least for that you don't have to condemn anyone. Emission control for the cars, better dumping laws, recycling incentives and much more efficiently organized city maintenance services are just a few of the things you could start with.

So far, my personal experience has led me to doubt the ability of the city to manage efficiently just about anything except its bulging bureaucracy. As the recent ice storm showed us we don't need a terrorist attack to cripple the city for weeks. Pot holes and branches are still all over the place. Has anyone been to Lakewood Park recently? Still looks like "The Day After". It should be renamed to Disaster Park. As to the branches that sat on the curb in front of my house for over a month, when they did finally pick them up the grass underneath was dead so I will need to re-seed it. Of course I will first need to fill in with soil all the holes they made while picking up the debris. Talk about adding insult to injury!

In this line of thought another experience of mine that seems worth mentioning. In 1991 the PVA office assessed the value of our home to be 72% above what the same office had assessed the property to be worth just 2 years before that. I had to spend months gathering information, doing research and dealing with incompetent and uncooperative administrators in order to appeal the assessment. After loosing a lot of time, money and nerves I won the appeal before the Board of Assessment Appeals and now my home is valued at $250,000 and not the initially proposed $370,000. That translates to approximately $1,200 less in taxes that I have to pay each year. It makes me sick to think of all the elderly, more trusting, less informed people, as well as those simply unwilling to go through the hassle of appealing or lacking the time for it, all of whom are still paying taxes on the outrageous property valuations made by the PVA office that year. It makes one think of what could happen to our water rates if.....So, if you will be asking for my vote in future elections, stop throwing away taxpayer money that is so scarce lately trying to buy something that is not for sale and will definitely not be managed better than it already is. The only ones that could benefit financially from this endeavor, if you succeed, are the water bottling companies because many people are going to start drinking bottled water only. I know I am.

—Alexander Karakashian

Mayor Teresa Isaac:
I am concerned about the few, but highly vocal persons, who are seeking the possibility of the Fayette Urban County Government takeover of our Kentucky American Water Company! It will turn out to be a big mistake, in both the short run and the long run, and for many reasons. Our taxes will go up, and our water bills will go up, just to mention a couple of things, and many of us know exactly why they will! It will make all of us, as tax-payers and as customers pay an expensive price. Nobody, except some government employees, and politicians will ever benefit from this. And, by the way… you need to allow us the right to be heard as we are tax-payers, and law abiding and working citizens, with equal rights. Please don't subdue us any more!

Why should we change away from something that has always worked just fine throughout Fayette County history? It was never expensive, the service has always been good, why change now? A privately owned water company will respond more quickly to customers requests and complaints than a government bureaucracy will.

We don't have government running our electric companies, our gas company, our telephone companies, our banks, nor our credit cards! So, why should a government run a water company anywhere in America???

As a home-grown American citizen, and college-educated, I do not see this even as an appropriate concept! It just wouldn't be the American way! It would be a Third-World country mentality! Government Take Over?!… Better Think Again!
—Steven Revere Hayes

I wonder which councilperson will be the first to propose a tax increase to pay for this mess? Or maybe just an increase in our water bills...The money has got to come from somewhere...
—Jeff Button

This message serves two purposes:
First, I want to insist that you open the March 4th council meeting to the PUBLIC, which includes the presentation of consultant George Raftelis' valuation of Kentucky American Water Company. Regardless of your position on condemnation of the water company, it is not right to deny the public access to key information and input on such a controversial issue, an issue that will affect every citizen of Lexington. The citizens and taxpayers of Lexington deserve to know how their money is being spent and where their council members stand on this important issue.

Second, if you support condemnation of the Kentucky American, I would like to understand why. Why does ownership of our water company, which has served us well for years, by a German company concern you? Does it bother you that Kentucky Utilities is owned by Louisville Gas & Energy, which is owned by the British company Powergen, which is owned by the German company E.ON AG, the world's largest investor owned energy services company? The partnership between Kentucky American and RWE/Thames has been completed, and our water service has not changed. What changes do you fear that you hope to avoid by condemning the water company? Mergers and consolidations are critical elements of progress in any growing economy. For any government to interfere with business decisions that pose no threat to citizens simply impedes progress and efficiency. Do you really think a city government can run a company as efficiently and effectively as the private sector can? What threat do you see from RWE/Thames that is worth the time and money required to condemn Kentucky American?

I am sincerely interested in your response. Thank you for your time.
—Jeff Gall

I am a constituent of yours in the 8th District and have met you at past neighborhood meetings. I haven't seen a newsletter in a while but I'm sure you're busy, like the rest of us, with other things. Today I'm writing to you, and my Council-at-Large representatives, to let you know I am against a takeover of Kentucky American. I work at Kentucky American, but even if I didn't work there, I would still be against this action.

I've lived in Lexington since late 1970 and have seen numerous changes take place - some good, some bad. I've also worked for several other large companies while in Lexington. The one thing that concerns me most now is private enterprise has expertise that cannot be measured proportionately in dollars by any consultant, especially one who has been hired by the Council to respond with exactly what they want to hear. I call this "yes men or women" who tell their boss what he/she wants to hear instead of being honest and speaking the truth, even if it does upset the boss. My parents always told me to be honest and that if you tell the truth, you won't have to remember what you said. This is good advice for anyone to follow - guess this reveals why I am truly a fan of Mike Scanlon. Mike doesn't always follow status quo and this has been missing, in part, with past Councils. I have great respect for other Council members as well but I won't mention names except that Fred, you're one of my fans too.

For the takeover issue, I feel the Council is doing a disservice to Lexington, and the surrounding communities served by Kentucky American, by pursuing a path that is futile from the get go. I wholeheartedly say, "Let's not go there."
—Jan Dickson

City officials:
I want to be clear that I am strongly opposed to the local government condemning and taking over our water company or any other local utility. You have done nothing to prove to me, as a citizen, that you can run this better than a private corporation. That is not government's job and it is typically ill-equipped to attempt such an undertaking for which it is not designed.

Also, if you close the forum to discuss the proposal on this issue, you prove that you don't really care what the people of this community think about this matter. The public here has strong opinions about this deal and need to be heard. Please be reminded that you are using our (my) money to operate in this manner and it is totally unacceptable.

—Wes Sirles

Dear Mr. DeCamp,
I am in your district (living at 113A Kentucky Ave.) and while I have been an opponent of the city's condemnation of the water company for a long time, I have not yet informed you of my opinion. (By "city" I mean the LFUCG.) I feel that this it is especially important to let you know now, since I understand that the final vote may be coming up soon, and since some people are using the argument that KU did a bad job dealing with the ice storm as support for the city's condemning the water company (and also, presumably, KU).

Regarding all this, I have three points to make.

First, I am in general opposed to the city trying to run all aspects of our lives. I think this is a fundamental philosophical issue which is hard to explain in a brief email, but it's an issue I feel very strongly about. The city has coercive power that private utilities don't have, and that coercive power can frankly be scary. It scares me that the city can use power to condemn private businesses, and I would be less happy living in a place where the government used that power to control more aspects of our lives than the government has to.

Second, I think KU overall did a reasonable job of dealing with the ice storm, so that's not a good argument against private utilities. They didn't do a perfect job, but they did a good enough job -- bringing in electric crews from distant locations is to be commended (and it wouldn't be fiscally feasible to always keep such a large number of workers on KU's staff). I don't mean any disrespect to you, but it's a reasonable possibility that if the city had been running the electric company the situation would have been handled _worse_ than it actually was.

Third, I don't think the sale of KAWC is as big of a deal as people think it is. KAWC used to be controlled by people in New Jersey; now it is being controlled by people in Germany. Are people in Lexington that xenophobic that they think Germans are going to do bad things that New Jerseyians wouldn't do? The state of Kentucky owns the water and the PSC can control things like rate increases. If the water company were being run badly, I can see why condemnation might be a legitimate option. But in fact the sale of KAWC has already happened and the sky has not fallen (ignoring the ice storm, of course!).

There's much more I could say but I'll leave it at that for now. Feel free to forward this email to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.

Thanks for your time.
—Bradley Monton

I am fundamentally opposed to the condemnation of Kentucky American Water Company! I personally do not care if you think it is a financially sound decision for LFUCG. I am philosophically opposed to a Government take over of any private or public business.

Thank you,
—David Harryman

Looks like the water issue is a little less cloudy. One thing you have never mentioned during all of this is the air of CREEPING SOCIALISM. Not to mention the fact that everything the local Government gets into ends up as a loosing proposition. They can't take care of what the present infrastructure, much less expanding into the utility business. A prime example of this is the problems we have with the sanitary sewer system, every time a problem arises within it they rush out and apply a bandage to the problem till things cool off a bit, and then it is forgotten until it arises again. Congrats, so far.
—Dave Norris

Mayor and Council--As a Lexington native and resident in District 5, I oppose a City takeover of KAWC. Government at any level should not go about seizing an independent business. In the case of KAWC, this is a utility with a proven track record of outstanding service and is not for sale. Remember too that KAWC is operating under a franchise that was granted by the City and should not be taken over in the absence of poor service or some form of malfeasance.

Your consultant's valuation of KAWC's worth is so broad that it smacks of inaccuracy. A true value can be had only through a very detailed process of cost accounting getting current values on an almost infinite number of elements--all sizes/types of pipe, pumps, meters; laboratory equipment; construction and maintenance equipment; rolling stock of all sorts; storage tanks; real estate; easements; existing service agreements, to name a few. The expertise of management and operating staff, and as in all business acquisitions, good will are among factors that should say no to a takeover.

Of great concern to me is the removal of KY Public Service Commission oversight that will be lost by City ownership. I encourage you to look closely at other government entities in the region that buy water from KAWC. Each of these will require an inter-local agreement between the entity and Lexington. Are these customers willing to let their rates be determined by a big-brother government sitting in Lexington? Will they be willing to have their water supply be at the whim of Lexington? I suspect not.

Talk of an independent board managing the utility sounds good, but experience suggests that it will be yet another opportunity for patronage appointments. How would the pay scale of a water utility compare to the City's scale? Are you willing to bite the bullet and implement a higher City payroll to fairly equal the certain higher pay levels required for a water utility?

It is said that a City-owned utility would make money and provide needed new funds to the City. I don't believe that government should be a profit-making thing. Let's say that the City gets KAWC, pays off the bond issue, and does then show a profit. How long will it be before there comes a public demand that water rates be lowered? To fail to do so would simply constitute a "tax" hike.

Give your energy to addressing the many needs of today's Lexington, and do not expend that energy (and money) on a hostile takeover of private enterprise. It is a surprise that successful private usiness men and women sitting on the Council seem to leave that background at the door when they attend Council meetings.
—Bob G. Rogers

Dear Mr. Fred Brown,
This is to let you know that I am passionately opposed to government takeover of the Kentucky American Water Company.

It will become a secret way the Council will increase revenue by raising water and sewage prices. In this way the Democrat administration can continue their Spend and Tax exploitation of the poor without them realizing that they are being taxed.

Furthermore, Communism has demonstrated that bureaucracy should be limited to those things that cannot be done any other way. Lets not tip our hat to Communism on this takeover issue.
—Frank Harvey

As my councilman you should know that I oppose the condemnation of the Kentucky American Water company. I understand that the government contractor, Mr. Raftelis, is to present his report as to the value of the water company in an upcoming council meeting. While the council has already contracted for his study at my expense, I urge you not to support any further actions in having the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government to take over this private company.

Although the Council may look at the profitability of this company as a ‘bill-payer’ for other county government agencies, I believe that the bureaucratic government structure will lose focus on what it takes to maintain profita