Council wants water board action

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods is asking the city Water and Wastewater Board, on behalf of the City Council, for action on a sewer rate issue that's been festering for months.

"I'll be glad to compose a letter on behalf of the council to ask them to do what you want," Woods told the councilmen after an extensive discussion that did not exactly specify the request.

It is, however, obvious that councilmen want to be able to vote on sewer rates charged to residents who are using a septic tank even though their homes are close enough for a sewer tap. The charge is for availability of sewer service, and it's justified as being available since it's within a certain distance. Councilman Hershel Davis, chairman of the utility board, has said there are maybe 25-30 homes where sewer bills are being paid based on water usage when there's no connection to a sewer.

The mayor is under the impression that such a request had been sent to the utility, but there's been no response to the council, she said. The council can't vote on water or sewer rate increases unless there's a recommendation from the utility board.

Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. called for a resolution to the on-going controversy.

"Ask the water board to highly consider having the board send this to the council," Whitehead said.

That letter had not been composed by noon Thursday and Woods planned to work on it that afternoon and consult with councilmen that evening before or after councilmen interview another applicant for the job of city manager.

"If we had a city manager, it would probably have been done," Woods said late Thursday morning. "They made reference to a set of minutes in which the water board was going to make a recommendation to the council... whether to charge [for sewer service when there's no connection] by water usage or the minimum."

Minutes of the water and sewer board meeting on Aug. 19 state that city resident Bob Lowe told the board of concerns he has regarding the sewer use fee.

Board member Gary Bolling moved and board member Billy Hill seconded "to let the City Council review the Sewer Use ordinance concerning sewer use fees," and the motion was approved 3-0 with Davis voting in agreement, according to the utility board minutes.

It would appear that since then, a court ruling issued in a similar situation was shared with members of the utility board, Woods said. As a result, there's been no report to the council. The mayor was pursuing the issue Thursday afternoon.

Once the letter is finalized and delivered, Woods said it would be made available for posting on the Marshall County Tribune's Web site, www.marshall

"Everything I understand is that they think the right thing to do is charge a minimum," Woods said, summarizing what she though was the council's intent.

After Tuesday night's meeting, Davis said he would present the mayor's request to the water board at 4 p.m. on Jan. 20. However, the water board's charge for water service "follows the law" as explained by the utility's lawyer.