The board of directors of the Dade Water Authority will hold its regular monthly meeting tonight, Tuesday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the Dade Administrative Building. This is the first regular meeting of the board as newly reconstituted by local legislation, and the new meeting time of 6:30 p.m. was set to allow for public attendance.
The reshuffling of the water board came about as the result of popular demand as the old board agreeably produced $400,000 of ratepayer money to buy acreage for the eventual construction of a controversial reservoir on Lookout Creek. At a special called meeting on July 8, the new board rallied agreeably around the suggestion of Dade Water Authority management to gift a sewer plant the authority never meant to own in the first place to developer Duane Horton of the McLemore--formerly called Canyon Ridge--golf course and luxury housing development.
Dade is a rural county whose sanitary needs are overwhelmingly serviced by septic tanks. Its nonprofit water company happens to own a sewer--which incidentally serves homes mostly in Walker County--because the water board had agreeably surged around a suggestion back in the early 2000s to partner with the earlier Canyon Ridge developer, Randy Baker. When he went belly-up in the housing market crash, the authority was obliged to take charge of the sewer plant. This was the first that the Dade County Commission knew about the authority's association with a sewer plant in Walker, and the ensuing blowback led to the last reshuffling of the water board by local legislation in 2011.
At the July 8 special called meeting, brand-new water company manager Jeff Pendergrass and longtime assistant manager Sherri Walker told the board the sewer plant was losing money and made a case for deeding it away to the current developer. Board members seemed amenable, in fact preternaturally eager, to sign. There was no discussion of the sewer plant's value, the water authority's contractual obligations if any to serve its 81 users at a consistent loss, or any other consideration that would seem normal in a transaction of this magnitude. Pendergrass described the plant as "inadequate" and "dilapidated" though it was built in 2003, over a decade later than the wastewater plant that still serves Trenton.
But somehow the meeting adjourned without the giveaway that had earlier seemed the general consensus, ending instead with manager Pendergrass and two board members assigned to check out the board's options vis-a-vis the sewer plant: Give it away, look for a buyer, or consider raising rates for its 81 users enough to make the plant pay for itself. On tonight's agenda is one of those: "Proposal to Increase McLemore Monthly Sewer Fee."
Other notable agenda items for tonight's meeting include "Overall Water System Improvements" and "Proposal to Withdraw the Cash Surrender Value of the Life Insurance Policy for Doug Anderton." As Doug Anderton, the authority's manager for almost 50 years, retired this summer, insurance policies that would pay him retirement benefits seemed to keep popping up as surprises to the current board though it was presumed earlier boards had approved them. There is also a proposal to raise the tap fee, the connection cost for new users.
In any case, there is enough on tonight's water board agenda to interest the public if the public is indeed interested enough to take the water board up on its new avowed devotion to transparency. That's 6:30 p.m. at the Dade Administrative Building, meeting room on the first floor, to the left as you walk in.
You can't miss it.