Water system is mismanaged

When I asked the cost of the park at the foot of Lake McIntosh, I was told, “One hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

That sounded low, so I read minutes of the Water Committee and of the Board of Commissioners.

I found nearly $1 million in expenses, not counting some roadwork done by county Public Works, but including $5,000 for a bronze and granite monument to “memorialize” about 30 politicians and Mr. Tony Parrott. (You may recall he was demoted following the 2013 “stinky water” and other debacles.)

Should water system customers have paid for the park? Certainly not: parks fall under another part of the county government.

Why did water system customers pay?

I suggest it was because the water system budget is a slush fund from which the commissioners can pay off political debts and buy votes.

Projects paid by the water system don’t compete in the more highly publicized county budget process. The water system, its budget, and its oversight are exempt from the normal democratic process.

While this was happening, the state of Georgia identified long-term mismanagement of the water system. I believe this was caused, at least in part, by the management model.

Management and responsibility for the Fayette County Water System rests with the Board of Commissioners (BOC) — who have never owned up to their role in the debacles of 2013.

The chairman of that board sits as a voting member on the Water Committee, a body with an unclear charter and no statutory responsibilities or authority.

Any ability the committee might have to provide disinterested information to the BOC is handicapped by the presence of the chairman of the BOC as a voting member of the committee.

Any ability the committee might have to provide oversight of the water system is handicapped by the presence of the director of the water system as a voting member of the committee.

Any supervisory oversight that the committee might provide is blocked by the presence of both the water system director and his immediate supervisor, the county administrator, as co-equal voting members.

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” Who shall watch the watchmen?

While no one was watching, this committee, with the full knowledge and blessing of the Board of Commissioners (current and past) spent a million dollars on a park when there was solid evidence of decades-long neglect of basic housekeeping and maintenance of the water system, especially of the two water treatment plants that are the heart of the system.

I believe the BOC should step up and admit their responsibility for the recent debacles.

I again call for a forensic audit of the water system finances.

I call for a different management model for the water system — specifically, an independent water system authority similar to the authorities that are in place in a number of other counties in the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.

I urge the ratepayers of the Fayette County Water System support this call to action.

Paul Lentz
Peachtree City, Ga.

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