Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

TOP STORY >> Water works is in business

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Cabot Water Works, the new name for the water and sewer departments that are now separated from the city and in the hands of an autonomous commission, opened this week with no problems.

“We’re up and running and doing business,” Tim Joyner, general manager of Cabot Water Works, said three days into the venture that was overwhelmingly approved by city voters more than a year ago.

Although the council has not divvied up the equipment in the public works department so, for example, the street department couldn’t try to claim a dirt mover paid for by water or sewer or those departments couldn’t claim a truck owned by the street department, Joyner said there have been no disputes over ownership.

The only real surprise was the two new employees with water maintenance that Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh hired last week, shortly before the commission took control.

Joyner said he would keep both of them since they did fill positions that were vacant.

Peggy Moss, human resources director for the city, said the equipment operator position had been vacant since Nov. 5, but the crewman position had been vacant only since Dec. 24.

Stumbaugh said there has been a high turnover in water and wastewater over the past year and some employees transferred to other departments before the takeover. The water department was down two equipment operators before he hired one last week.
“I just hated to leave them short-handed,” he said.

As expected, the city has not turned over the bank accounts for water and wastewater but did deposit operating funds in new accounts set up by Cabot Water Works.

The commission had hoped the city would turn over the existing accounts, but Dale Walker, the city’s finance director, said as soon as the bank statement comes in and Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler reconciles it, the balance in the accounts, not the accounts, will be turned over.
That everything went smoothly was not a surprise.

The commission learned last week that Joyner was ready for the Jan. 1 transition from city to commission control.
Commission member Don Keesee quizzed Joyner during the Thursday meeting called to develop a strategy for getting council approval of all the measures necessary in the takeover that no problems were expected.

“Can we take service calls? Can we make payroll? Can we buy gas for trucks? Can we fix a flat tire? Are we ready?” Keesee asked.
“We’re ready,” Joyner ans-wered. “I don’t see any problem.” Then with tongue in cheek, he added, “In fact, we got two more employees today.”
The commission and council still must agree on warranty deeds on the real estate and ownership of the equipment.

They also do not yet have control of the various contracts for water and sewer construction projects that are ongoing. But Keesee said during the meeting that he believes their attorney, Tad Bohannon, and City Attorney Clint McGue will be able to work out the details of that issue.

One of the measures the commission wants the council to agree to is a cooperation agreement which says essentially that the commission and city will work together to ensure that each ends up with what they are entitled to.

When the details of all the outstanding business will be worked out is unknown, because no date has been set for the commission and council to sit down together, but the council has said the separation will be completed by the end of January.