Branch Heights Water Contract creates fireworks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A disagreement over the proposed Branch Heights Water Contract saw tempers rise at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Eutaw City Council. Some council members felt that the contract presented at the council meeting was totally different than the one they had originally agreed upon.

Council member Joe Powell was very passionate about his disapproval of the contract presented at Tuesday’s meeting. Powell said he had never seen the document and had no intentions of voting in its favor.

“This is not the same contract that we voted on,” Powell said. “This is totally different. I think if we are going to vote on this contract it should have been in our hands. This contract is totally different than the one we voted on and the three year phase in period has been taken out.”

Powell said he had also had difficulty getting a copy of the contract when he requested one.

“When I called all week asking for a copy of the new contract no one could seem to find it,” Powell said. “All of a sudden now at the board meeting the contract appeared. I think that you all are playing games with me. I think that we have to be up front with the people and that is why I want to vote on a contract we have had in our hand. We have no knowledge of this contract.”

Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele said it was not his intention to sneak anything by. Steele said discussions of the contract have been conducted and could be found in the records.

“I am not a person to try to deceive the public,” Steele said. “The contract is clearly in the minutes. It was discussed in the council meeting.”

Steele then gave a brief history of the discussions that had come from the original contract.

“On Feb. 22 council member Powell made the motion to table this until the water board met,” Steele said. “It was discussed then that all water rates would be the same and that is the reason it was tabled so we could go back to Branch Heights. On March 8 the board had met and it was brought back to this city council and presented that there would be one water rate for the citizens of Eutaw.”

Steele said that all members then voted idea on.

City Attorney Mike Smith enforced Steele’s point.

“When we came to the meeting on Feb. 22 the contract did not contain the changes that we have made to take out the three year period,” Smith said. “Through the course of that meeting it was discussed that everyone would pay the same water rate and that would come out. It is clear and it is in the minutes.”

Council member Lewis Bostick said he could not recall the discussions. He said he had also had several questions about the contract.

“I have had two or three calls about this myself,” Bostick said. “I have gone back through the minutes of our meetings and two times you brought before us basically the same contract. On Feb. 22 it was voted on under the objections of Joe Sanders and myself to pass something that we didn’t see. Until tonight, this contract in its entirety has never been brought before this council.”

Steele said the contract had been there and the council had voted on the rate change, which would state that all rates would be the same for all citizens of Eutaw.

“The only changes that we made were that all water rates would be the same,” Steele said. “With those changes, that is what the council voted on.”

Council member Trudie Cox said the contract was fair and felt it should be honored. Cox said the contract called for everyone to pay the same rate, which was only fair.

“When we put together our contracts we do not discriminate against anyone,” Cox said. “In the financial meeting we had we said if they paid a small amount different from what anyone else was paying and I said I did not want to see us discriminate and let one group do what we were not going to let another group do. We agreed that everyone would have to do the same thing and have to pay the same thing.”

Powell continued to protest the wording of the contract stating the three-year period was in the original and had been removed without anyone’s knowledge. Powell said he refused to throw his support behind the document.

“I am not going to be a yes person for anybody if I know it is wrong,” Powell said. “It is wrong and I specifically told you that. We cannot sit here and honor this. We haven’t voted in this and we can’t vote on this.”

Unfortunately, for Powell and the others who disapprove of the contract, it has already been approved and signed by the Greene County Water Authority and Housing Authority.

For now, the contract will be honored as written.