Russellville wrestles with water bills

Friday, December 14, 2007

RUSSELLVILLE -- Russellville town council members again found themselves in hot water with some local residents at the board's Wednesday night meeting.

At issue was the $52.51 monthly water bill that town residents are facing -- a rate many in attendance said is too high.

Council members defended the high rates as unfortunate but necessary to pay for repairs and upkeep on the town's aging water system.

Members passed out a report that they said they would distribute to each of the town's 143 water customers that detailed $60,000 in repairs and maintenance spent in 2007.

One resident pointed out that with consulting and salary costs, the 2007 expenditures on the water system had ballooned to $100,000.

Council member Don Reddish said he is currently working on a way to lower the water bills. But he said, it costs at least $30,000 a year just to run the system and pay for only the bare essentials.

The meeting grew contentious and the mood soured when Russellville resident Dianna Gorrell give the town council members an Open Records request letter, asking for a list of all Russellville utility customers that are delinquent in their utility bills.

Gorrell said she believes water bills are so high in part because many of the residents aren't paid up. Many other residents share her view, she added.

Board President Sally McAffee said she would begin sorting out the information in order to honor the request, but she and Reddish also had a warning for Gorrell and the ladies who accompanied her to the meeting -- they must make sure they ask to be put on the agenda at the next meeting or the council won't hear their comments.

"I'm tired of you coming in here and taking over the meetings," Reddish said. "You're trying to make it as tough on us as you can."

The council also unanimously passed the salary ordinance for 2008. No raises were given to any two employees.

Council members will make $1,500 per years. The Clerk-Treasurer, the highest-paid employee, will earn $9,700.

Town Marshal Mike Biggs, who is also a Putnam County Sheriff's Department Captain, will make $9,600.

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