DES MOINES (AP) — A financially troubled central Iowa rural water district is struggling with a new challenge: finding someone to replace the utility's only licensed operator, who resigned after being charged with murder.
Xenia Rural Water District has temporarily employed an engineering company to supervise its largest treatment plant after Joshua Powell, of Ogden, resigned by phone on Wednesday.
Powell, 28, has been charged with first-degree murder. He is accused of strangling his wife last Saturday. Powell is being held in the Boone County Jail on $2 million bond.
Powell's sudden resignation has not affected the utility's water quality or service, said Xenia spokesman Corey Iben.
"It's a blip on the emotional side for our employees, but we will continue to operate without missing a beat," Iben said.
Xenia has hired Snyder and Associates, an engineering firm in Ankeny, Iowa, to supervise work at a treatment plant in Stratford, which provides water to ethanol plants in Jewell and Gowrie.
Xenia began advertising Thursday for a new water treatment plant operator.
The water district announced three years ago that it owed $140 million, nearly all of it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Assured Guaranty, a New York bond insurer.
Xenia took on the debt in a failed bid to double its customer base by cashing in on booming growth in the western suburbs of Des Moines. Since then, the district has raised water rates by more than 60 percent on most customers.
Xenia serves about 9,500 customers in 12 counties. Many are elderly and have struggled to pay the higher rates because of fixed incomes.
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