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|Mayor, USDA to discuss water system Thursday|
Ferriday Mayor Gene Allen will meet Thursday with the town's water system manager, engineer Bryant Hammett, USDA representatives and local and state officials to discuss the town's water system and to seek permission to begin the installing water meters.
The town has more paperwork to complete for the USDA before the agency authorizes the purchase and installation of new meters.
The meeting will take place at 10 a.m. at Ferriday Town Hall.
Although alderman Gloria Lloyd offered a motion to terminate its present contact with its water system manager, JCP of Harrisonburg, no vote was taken.
Allen told Ferriday aldermen during their regular meeting Tuesday night that if the town is unable to get permission to put in the meters he will pursue borrowing some from the Town of Jonesville.
Jonesville Mayor Hiram Evans said Wednesday morning the town's Board of Alderman passed a motion Tuesday night to provide 150 to 200 meters to the Town of Ferriday.
Before discussing the Thursday meeting, JCP Management owner Glen Womack told the board he is a partner in moving the town forward and has taken his own losses as the town's water system manager.
Alderman Johnny Brown said he has been inundated with calls and comments from residents concerned over the water system.
"I have had a mountain of complaints about water increases and outrageous rates, some going up from $46 to $300 and $400," Brown said.
Alderwoman Gail Pryor said she has been getting complaints, too. She said doesn't understand why someone just moving into a residence should have to pay for a water bill accumulated by the last person who lived there.
"Someone will move out when it's due bill time and their daughter or uncle or someone will move in," Womack said. "We look at that bill as John Doe and when someone moves out in theory it's still John Doe."
"I wouldn't want to pay someone else's bill," Pryor said. "You are not being people-friendly. You are not using the right approach."
"If we bring in a new meter, then there will be a connect fee," Womack said. "We have to eliminate the double bill."
Allen asked board members if they wanted to recommend to JCP that water accounts be turned off as soon as they were declared overdue.
No alderman supported that idea.
Town attorney Myisha Davis said concerning rental property, that new residents could get a property owner to send a signed affidavit to the town stating that they were not the former residents who owed the bill, and JCP could start billing the new residents from the time they occupied the dwelling,
"We have to get meters in place," Allen said. "JCP has been working with people and giving them adjustments when they find leaks. There are some people not telling board members all the truth. We get complaints and go out and look and find leaks and see where some people have a history of water problems. At some point you have to make Ferriday first. Then everything will be all right."
"I don't think we are getting the truth from authoritative figures," Pryor said.
Allen said the town did not read the original contract with JCP, which led to objections from Brown and Elijah "Stepper" Banks, who was the lone alderman to vote against the contract.
"I looked at the figures and I see where Ferriday has failed to implement making sure we get paid," Banks said.
Brown mentioned an expiration date on the contract is coming up in April and a new contract should be made to serve the town in its best interests.
"I recommend the contract be terminated today," Lloyd said.
"We can't just kick them out, we have to have a reason or we could get sued," Banks said.
The contract states that the agreement "may be terminated at any time according to the terms and conditions set forth. The town or operator each have the right to terminate the agreement upon 90 days prior written notice to the other party, or as otherwise agreed upon by the parties."
Town attorney Meiysha Davis took exception to Lloyd's motion.
"Not at any time has anyone contacted the town attorney about the contract," Davis said.
"Well, you are sitting right here," Lloyd said.
"I have not been asked for advice," Davis said.
"I apologize on behalf of the board," Pryor said. "From now on we will consult with you."
"We need to get your expertise," Brown said.
Brown, who had originally seconded Lloyd's motion to terminate the contract, made a motion for Davis to advise the board about the contract after Thursday's meeting.
Lloyd was the lone "no" vote.
Before that exchange, Brown asked why the town has been paying a $13,000 a month loan from Concordia Bank instead of JCP.
"The town is supposed to pay that loan," Allen said.
Womack said he has lost money keeping the town's water going.
"We've been keeping Ferriday water going for you," Womack said. "The only time Ferriday has been out of water is when we had to fix a bad leak. Every month we've been fixing leaks and with those leaks I was taking another $4,000 out of our revenue. But we did it to give you clean water."
He said JCP considered itself Ferriday's partner and has been repairing leaks "even though we don't have the money. We have worked with the mayor and town workers to get on the right track. We found 200 broken meters.
"We are not here to bleed anybody. We want this town to have much success. We have a lot at stake. We have taken some losses, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel."
Allen said JCP is in a "Catch-22" situation.
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