The Germantown Water System is now on its way to becoming a water district, thanks to their annual meeting where they received enough votes to move forward.
At Tuesday’s Webster Parish Police Jury meeting, Lane Davidson, Germantown Water System board member, says they received 97 proxy votes and 25 people showed up at the meeting, giving them the quorum they needed.
“We had to have a quorum out of our membership and a vote, and after much writing of letters and sending things out, we were able to have a quorum,” Davidson said. “We laid out what we’re trying to do, which is raise the rates. We told them we were going to have to raise the rates whether we became a district or whether we stayed a system.”
He says they explained to those present why they wanted to become a district, mainly to get out from under the Public Service Commission and change the percentage of the quorum from 20 percent to five percent.
Parish attorney Patrick Jackson explained the issue is becoming a larger problem every day. Water systems across the state are petitioning their parishes to become water districts, because they simply do not have the funds to take care of their infrastructure.
“This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem throughout the state of Louisiana,” Jackson said. “Bossier Parish is in the process of taking in more than 40 nonprofit systems because as parishes began to populate, communities and nonprofits got together to create water and sewer districts to provide to their constituents. But that was also before the DEQ, the EPA, and now it’s becoming where a set of volunteers are really struggling to manage the bureaucracy that is necessary to do these things.”
He says many people do not participate in the management of their water infrastructure, and when it’s time to do something, the bylaws make it difficult to obtain a quorum.
Jackson cautioned the jury, saying they will face this issue with not just this one system, but with many others. The jury will have to create the district, he says, and the size of the district is very important, because the district can only have one rate. The property will have to be donated to the district and a rate system will have to be established.
“It does get (Germantown) out of the PSC,” Jackson said. “They (PSC) have to send a letter of non-objection. The problem now is it cost more to do it to standard and by the letter of the law and the DEQ and EPA may look the other way because it’s a nonprofit, but they won’t when it’s run by the government. There are some plusses and there are some minuses.”
An ordinance may be introduced in January to create the district, and Jackson and
Germantown’s legal counsel – Paul Kitchens – will consult to write the legal description of the property and other matters necessary.
In August, Davidson, on behalf of the water system, asked the police jury to take the necessary steps to help Germantown become a water district. The system is more than 40 years old and services some 500 members. Davidson says they have enough funding to maintain the current infrastructure, and they have no debt.
Water rates have not increased in more than 10 years, he said. Jackson says the days of $8 and $10 water bills are gone. However, the PSC has not allowed them to raise their rates to accommodate the costs of improving the infrastructure.
Germantown is one of 33 water systems in the parish. Only four are named as water districts: Doyline Water System, McIntyre Water System, Sarepta Water Works District and Sibley Water System.
The police jury will meet at 10:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 11, 2016.