April 10, 2014
Comm. Salmon has recently tried to interfere into the everyday workings of ASWA. Why would the County Manager want the ASWA staff to meet her to “mediate a citizen’s complaint about the water being turned off?” Because Comm. Salmon directed the County Manager to meet with the ASWA staff and the resident to see if “he was being treated fairly.”
Comm. Salmon is way out of line by interfering in what is in essence a private business. AWSA follows the rules and regulations that have been set forth, and like any good business would, they cut off service when the bill isn’t paid and is over a month late.
However, on January 17, 2014, the ASWA office manager, system operator, property owner, tenant and complainant, ASWA board member, and interested citizens met at the ASWA office at the request (demand) of Karen Degges, County Manager. When asked why she was interfering she said she “wanted to make sure all citizens of Jasper County were treated fairly.” She also admitted that Comm. Salmon asked her to look into the situation as to why this complainant’s water was cut off.
Is it the BOC’s duty to get involved in citizens’ personal bills and financial situations? If we don’t like it when a bill collector comes by and wants to cut off our electric or phone or water, do we all get to call the County Manager and complain we are not being treated fairly and have her come mediate the situation for us? Or does this only happen if it is Alcovy Shores Water Authority? We have never heard of the BOC or Comm. Salmon questioning it when a JCWSA customer has water service cut off.
Ms. Degges tried to make herself out as a mediator/facilitator, but she and Comm. Salmon were putting their noses exactly where they didn’t belong. After hearing the story and seeing the facts, Ms. Degges realized there was a very legitimate reason for the water being cut off (and should have been sooner); she told the man to get a loan from his family or friends, pay the bill, plus the security deposit and then he could get his water turned back on. Hopefully, she realized that Comm. Salmon’s personal agenda put her in a difficult situation.
The problem here is Comm. Salmon has repeatedly thought of things to do to harass and intimidate ASWA and system operator Juanita Gazaway. Why do the other BOC members allow this to happen? And just what is this “water issue” that Comm. Salmon wants solved with an investigation into ASWA? The only water issue we know about in this county is JCWSA’s inability to meet its obligations because of the cost of water lines run to potential subdivisions and its quest for taxpayer funds to bail them out.
Alcovy Shores Water Authority (ASWA) has been in existence since 1979. They happen to be solvent despite the fact that the county has never provided them with funds. JCWSA on the other hand has gotten direct funds from the BOC (taxpayers) since the beginning of their existence in 1999, even though the taxpayers of the county were assured the JCWSA would stand on its own and survive on the revenues generated by the water system, not off taxpayer funding. For the past several years JCWSA has gotten funds from a special tax levy bringing in over $42,000 each year. This is not enough, nor is any amount ever enough. JCWSA continues to borrow money they can’t pay back.
In late 2013 the JCWSA told the BOC they needed money to pay their note. The trouble is, it wasn’t the USDA note they were worried about. It was the note JCWSA borrowed from the Bank of Monticello as a tax anticipation note that was due 12/31/13—by law. In order to pay this note on time (and then immediately borrow the money back in January), $8,000 was borrowed from one of the JCWSA board member’s employer—Patrick & Associates—an engineering firm that has ties to Bear Creek Reservoir. (Per Minutes from JCWSA 3/11/14 meeting) Does Comm. Salmon see any conflict in this? Will he have an investigation launched? Surprisingly enough, Salmon has never called for an investigation into the illegal taxpayer funding of JCWSA or the land development deals surrounding this water authority.
We will report in Part III what happens at the May BOC meeting when ASWA board members are appointed.