Mother Nature is incredible! Over the years, our wells have provided fresh, clean water for pennies a month. Oodles of water! Plenty for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes, cleaning the car, watering the garden, and a thousand other things.
Over the past couple of years, a small handful of us signed up for county water. County officials promised us $35-45 a month. In actuality, we may be forced to pay $75, $85, even $100 for water.
First, the Vance County Commission Chairman Tommy Hester unilaterally negotiated a horrible water contract with a Henderson City Councilman Mike Inscoe. Both live in the city of Henderson. Neither will have to pay for county water. So they won’t have to feel the pain we’re going to feel.
Second, since the water system was conceived, it has been grossly mismanaged. The incompetence of local officials and the engineering firm they employed is mindboggling. They never asked Vance County citizens if we even wanted a municipal water system. They just forged ahead with a system that made absolutely no economic sense. They had an arguably fraudulent bond referendum, the results of which were dubious at best. They knowingly and falsely claimed that county water would attract business and industry. What businessman in Arkansas, who has water already, would relocate to Vance County just because we have county water? Not one! Even if a manufacturing company wanted to locate here, county water is not sufficient. Such a company would need a way to process its waste. It would require a sewer system. If our leaders can’t do a water system right, how in the world can they do a sewer system? They can’t!
Third, our leaders have been less than transparent in this process. Along the way, even as they learned that their original estimates were incredibly wrong, we who signed up were not notified that our bills would be 200-300% higher than we were promised.
Fourth, the engineering firm hired by county leaders has proven to be less than adequate to carry out this project. Engineers have been assigned that were unwilling or unable to answer questions about the project, even questions posed by the one commissioner who cares about our tax dollars! The engineering firm may even be on the verge of bankruptcy. Anyway, it has been replaced by another firm. The new firm has its roots in the old firm…go figure!
Fifth, on September 26 Commissioner Brown said that this system was poorly planned from the start. The top two county employees totally responsible for the poor planning and inept implementation of this water project, the County Manager Jerry Ayscue and new Deputy County Manager Jordan McMillen are among the highest paid citizens of Vance County. One might wonder why the Vance County Commission continues to tolerate and handsomely reward incompetence. Are they beneficiaries of seriously unethical nepotism? Are they willing and highly paid stooges of those who actually want county water? Was the water system created by and for special interests such as developers, builders, and real estate brokers, several of whom are Vance County commissioners?
Sixth, on September 26 County Manager Ayscue said that county officials did their best for several years to sell us water. They even hired professionals to sell us county water. They all failed miserably. The majority of Vance Countians did not sign up. And now they promise to do a better sales job. If they actually did their best, then they should be fired because their best was nowhere near good enough. If they failed to do their best, then he lied and they should be fired. Either way, they should be held accountable for their failure, not the taxpayers.
Seventh, we were promised $35-45 a month for water. On September 26 the Commissioners learned that, based on the low number of customers, the real water rate should be over $90 per month. Shamelessly, they arbitrarily set the rate at $60 a month, deciding, perhaps illegally, to use tax dollars to hide the actual price of water. That means those who sign up will be paying twice for their water. Those who didn’t sign up will be paying for someone else’s water. And those who don’t even live in an area covered by the county system will be paying for someone else’s water. This could lead to class action litigation, for which taxpayers again will be forced to pay.
Eighth, once the county starts pumping water through the lines, we can never get off the system. Forever is a long, long, very expensive time.
There is still time to avoid disaster. If you haven’t signed up, think long and hard. If you have, call and cancel.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to stick with my well. Mother Nature is more reliable, more honest, more transparent, much cheaper, and does not play favorites.