May 27, 2009

Jasper County Water & Sewer Authority—Too much debt and too few customers

Usually JCWSA board members are clamoring to be reappointed.  This year was entirely different.  All 3 members whose terms were up would not consider being reappointed.  It appears they were all well aware of the dire financial situation JCWSA has gotten itself into.

Rumor also has it that Executive Director Linda Jordan and Chairman Brack Pound will be resigning by the end of May.  What’s happened?  These 2 volunteers, as they like to call themselves, have been on the authority board “forever.”  They have also been most vocal in telling everyone over the years how great everything is with JCWSA.

The ship is sinking and everyone seems to be jumping overboard.  The citizens will remember who “led” this board all along if JCWSA fails.  Members Pound, Clark, and Brazil (who is now System Operator) have all served as Chair of the Authority, while Jordan has always been Treasurer, even after being removed from the board.

What’s the problem?  Too much debt and not enough customers.  After 9 years in existence and 50 plus miles of lines, the JCWSA has a few more than 300 customers.  Their goal seemed to be to run water lines anywhere there could be a subdivision.  JCWSA has water service to at least 3 subdivisions with no customers and to other subdivisions off County Line Road with very few customers. 

The promise of JCWSA was to help Jasper County bring in business, but no water lines have been run for that purpose.  Now with almost $2.5 million of debt and a shrinking customer base, there’s not enough money to pay the loan payments.  The USDA payments alone are over $10,000 a month.  This is exactly why JCWSA wants money from the taxpayers; either in the form of a hydrant tax or from the general fund.  Two years ago they also tried to obtain another  loan (more debt) by partnering with the City of Monticello.  Thankfully, that loan was not approved due to the poor financial condition of both the City and the JCWSA.

Some commissioners seem to be under the impression that Jasper County will have to take over the debt if JCWSA fails.  The legislation creating JCWSA states that the local government will not be liable for the debts of JCWSA.  USDA owns all the bonds that were issued to loan money to JCWSA, and USDA will be responsible for them, not the local government or taxpayers of Jasper County.



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