Dade Commission OKs Water Board Reshuffle Resolution

With zero drama, the Dade County Commission at a 5 p.m. special called meeting today approved a resolution reconfiguring the governing board of the Dade County Water Authority. The vote was unanimous, and the meeting was over by 5:02.

Well, maybe an iota of drama: Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley, who has been serving as the chairman of the water board as well, since the last time it was reconfigured circa 2012, and whom the resolution effectively kicks off the water board, made the motion to approve the resolution himself.

As chairman of the county commission, Rumley seldom makes a motion, and indeed felt the need to explain before he did so that he has the right to. But he has insisted throughout the discussions that preceded this latest water board reshuffle that he didn't mind being ousted and perhaps made the gesture of proposing the motion himself to underscore the point.

"I think it's a good thing," he said at the meeting today. "I think it's fair."

The resolution must now go before the Trenton City Commission for formal approval before it can be presented to the Georgia Legislature for the local legislation necessary to make the change. Trenton Mayor Alex Case said that can't be before early next week, though County Attorney Robin Rogers has stressed the need to have the resolution in legislators' hands by Feb. 1.

The resolution, as drafted by Rogers following last week's joint meeting of the city and county commissions with the water board on the subject, specifically prohibits county and city elected officials, county and city employees and water company employees from serving on the water board, and also bans spouses, siblings or children of any of those classes. It did not mention parents. It specifies that the four county district commissioners will appoint a water board member from their districts and that the city commission will be responsible for appointing one from Trenton proper. It also lays out the five-year terms they will serve, staggered so that one is up for reappointment every year.

The resolution gives the water board the right to elects its own chairperson and set its own pay.

It further clears up any ambiguity about the city fire hydrants that may have caused contention lately between the city and the water authority, spelling out: "The Authority shall have the duty and responsibility of ensuring that all fire hydrants connected to its water system are properly functioning at all times with sufficient water volume and pressure."

Rumley was put over the water board, and the board itself reshaped, when the county discovered after the housing market crash of 2009 that the water company had partnered with a developer to build a sewer for a luxury housing community mostly in Walker County, which became Dade's sole responsibility when the developer bankrupted; and that it was paying itself four times as much as any other board in the county.

But Rumley's influence over the water board came into question when, last year, the board agreed to borrow $450,000 toward financing land for a reservoir on Lookout Creek. Rumley introduced the reservoir in June 2017 as a county commission project and has championed it stolidly since then.

The Dade County Commission will sit for its regular January meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6.

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