Independent Commentary

65

On February 19, 2014 council members gathered in a workshop with Lonnie Clark and Dwayne Allen to discuss increasing water and sewer rates. The city was not in compliance with requirements of the bond covenants. These aldermen included Terry McClung, David Mitchell and Mickey Schneider.

According to Mayor Berry, in a handwritten response to an FOIA request, they decided at council table based on “observation that many meters were not working and or incorrectly reporting water usage.” Clark suggested “inefficient water meters are part of the problem.” Allen said, “Water the city buys from Carroll-Boone Water District… might not be measured by the meters.” No one produced a study or engineering report with a provable metric for these opinions. 

Three months later Dwayne Allen would tell them the meters “were more of a problem than I anticipated” after replacing only three meters of large motels. No one discussed conserving cash with a phased in replacement. They spent our money based on opinion at the table rather than facts.

Apparently there was some ex parte discussion, as Ord. 2212 was crafted outside the council room and introduced as the summary of the workshop. It was given a number and passed on the first reading. It stated, “Director of Public Works has determined…” with no other basis in fact. It was voted on without discussion. It passed 6-0. It eventually passed in a later meeting. Again it was unanimous and there was no discussion on the second or third reading.

Nearly four years have come and gone. They installed 84% of the meters. They spent $466,161 of our money. Was the return worth the investment? They believed the old meters were under-measuring water that was actually used. They were wrong. It appears, based on their numbers, the old meters were over-measuring water usage to the city’s advantage.

Five years prior to water meter replacement  (2010-1014). Percent of water billed to customers from Carroll-Boone Water District: 50.2%

Two years during water meter replacement (2015-2016). Percent of water billed to customers from Carroll-Boone Water District: 51.9%

Nine months since water meter replacement (2017). Percent of water billed to customers from Carroll-Boone Water District: 46.9% when annualized

The results of installing the water meters are pretty clear. The gallons of water that were billed to customers stayed nearly the same and the percentage of water billed to customers decreased.

Is this the reason for that fee on your water bill? There are several reasons for the fee on your water bill and this is only one of them. The problem is that the members of council made decisions based on opinion and not facts.

Joyce Knowles

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