OUR OPINION: North Lee can make better way to work

By NEMS Daily Journal

Scheduling of a membership meeting and board of directors election for the North Lee Water Association membership will provide the opportunity to set the important not-for-profit and private utility on a steadier course following recent internal upheaval.
The 6 p.m. Nov. 15 meeting at Saltillo Community Center in Saltillo City Park offers a larger venue for what’s expected to be a capacity crowd of voting members from the 4,400-customer water association.
A substantial outpouring of complaints about water quality, poor service and allegations of at least bad management led to the resignation of most board members of record, ongoing investigations by the Public Service Commission, the Mississippi Department of Health and the FBI.
No formal charges of criminality have been made, and no indictments revealed.
However, the hiring of an attorney to represent the association’s interests had led to actions that will provide updated bylaws and guidelines prohibiting special rates or free water for elected directors.
The new board to be elected Nov. 15 could include people who have previously served if they are nominated and elected. Any member can nominate himself or herself, and members may nominate another customer/member to serve. The nominations deadline is Nov. 11 because ballots must be printed.
The board members elected Nov. 15 will serve staggered terms.
Mailed copies of new bylaws are expected to be in the hands of members within a few days, and a letter accompanying the bylaws will have precise instructions on how to submit nominations.
Issues raised by North Lee’s customers of course are intended to spur action leading to solutions because the association is important to the quality of life across northern Lee County.
Similar rural water associations nationwide comprise the largest water “utility” organization in the U.S.
More than 29,000 associations are members of the National Rural Water Association, and Mississippi was among the earliest states to affiliate in 1978. North Lee is a member of the Mississippi Rural Water Association, which is an affiliate of the NRWA.
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 authorized the United States Environmental Protection Agency to set national health-based standards for drinking water. North Lee fits into a larger and important picture: The Centers for Disease Control reports that according to the 2003 American Housing Survey, of the 105. 84 million homes in the United States, “water is provided to 92,324 million (87.2 percent) by a public or private business; (and) 13.09 million (12.4 percent) have a well …”
The major concern for CDC and health officials is safe water, and a well-run local association can provide that assurance.