By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Despite rules against perks for volunteer board service, North Lee County Water Association directors have been enjoying discounted, and even free, water.
Directors paid a rate of $10.30 monthly no matter how much water they used, the Daily Journal was told Thursday.
The usage at the directors homes wasn’t checked, said meter reader Phillip Miller, who claimed he was told not to read meters for current and past board members. So, monthly bills for those members consistently read $10.30.
According to the association’s bylaws, board members are not to receive compensation for their service. Board officers, however, can get it. Officers are President Mitchell Scruggs and, until Tuesday, Vice President Jimmy Bucy and Treasurer/Secretary Don Winders.
Bucy and Winders, along with other board members, resigned this week and have been replaced by interim directors.
But the discount water had been applied to all board members’ regardless of their titles, office manager Nikki Taylor said.
Only the newest board member, Bruce Parker, who was appointed in April, had been exempt from the discount, records show. Interim directors appointed this week also are exempt.
Miller also said that, although he reads the meter at Scruggs’ race shop, he was told not to read the meter at Scruggs’ cotton gin.
“I was told to put a 300 or 400 reading on it every month,” Miller said, referring to 300-400 gallons.
Records show the cotton gin had used 300 gallons during the most recent billing period. The race shop had used 670 gallons.
In addition, at least one unmetered spigot sits on Mount Vernon Road farmland belonging to Scruggs. The spigot allows anyone to access unlimited, free water. It sits at the foot of vast cotton fields.
There are other unmetered spigots scattered throughout the Water Association, according to former director Jimmy Bucy. He said those spigots were put on property in exchange for laying pipe on land. Bucy said he offered to pay for his and was told no.
Miller says he has seen tractors with tanks filling up water at the site.
On Thursday morning, cotton bolls gathered in deep ruts filled with water at the foot of the spigot.
“They’ll tell you it’s a flush valve,” Miller said, “but that’s not what flush valves usually look like.”
Public Service Commissioner Investigator Jimmy Taylor agreed. He surveyed the site along with Miller and the media on Thursday.
“It’s not like any flush valve I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Bucy said they are used as flush valves.
Read more in Friday’s NEMS Daily Journal.