By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Clean water at reasonable rates: That’s the what the customers of the Northeast Itawamba Water Association say they want. It’s also what Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, said they should legally expect.
But during a special public meeting last night in Fulton, hosted by Presley’s office to discuss a recent influx of complaints against the regional water system, it was abundantly clear that many of those customers feel that’s not what they’re getting.
More than 120 people attended the meeting, which lasted nearly three hours. Many openly voiced a laundry list of complaints against the water system and its board of directors: poor water pressure, discolored and odorous water, high bills and overall mismanagement. There were also numerous concerns about the water association’s ongoing project to connect with the water system in Franklin County, Alabama — the proposed solution to the water system’s overwhelming pressure problems.
Presley, who served as moderator among the many parties present at the meeting — water association customers, board members and representatives of the Mississippi State Department of Health — said he believes many of the customers’ concerns about both the present and future of the water association could be resolved with better communication on the part of the water association’s board.
“Frankly, they have done a poor job of communication with their customers,” Presley said, a statement he repeated several times during the meeting. “We shouldn’t have to hold a meeting like this to answer [water association customers’] questions.”
He encouraged those board members, who are elected by water association customers annually, to begin holding more open meetings and to be more frank with the water association’s operations and expenditures.
Currently, the board meets once each month: Even-numbered months are public meetings; odd-numbered meetings are closed to the general public. Board president Ralph Burkes, who was present at Thursday night’s meeting, said these closed meetings were used to pay bills.
Under Mississippi law, regional water boards are not required to host open meetings.
Read more in Friday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.