Riverside investigating possible theft of water
by Elsie Hodnett
Feb 19, 2014 | 1399 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Riverside City Council approved an ordinance to borrow funds for water system upgrades and announced the city is investigating the possible theft of water.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Jessup said the city is under a time limit for the State Revolving Fund water loan fund, which is ready to go.

“This is the SRF federal money that we are going to use to upgrade out water system,” he said. “Those plans are in the process. We’ve discussed it thousands of times.”

The city council suspended the rules to immediately adopt an ordinance, and unanimously adopted the ordinance for the SRF water loan and closing.

“We have talked about it for years now, so I don’t think it’s anything that we would be better off putting it off for three weeks to get this phase of it over,” he said. “This doesn’t mean we are borrowing the money, it just OK’s our approval to borrow the money. We haven’t even decided completely how we spend it yet. We haven’t even bid it out.”

Riverside Utility Superintendent Jeff Bullard said water department employees are currently conducting a count of all water meters for the SRF loan.

“We are starting today with meter reading this week,” he said. “We are starting to get an accurate count then go out next week to get the ones they don’t know about since I’ve been here to get accurate counting for the SRF loan.”

Bullard said regarding people stealing water, they are checking the inactive list against the lockout list to make sure nobody has cut the lock that city workers haven’t checked lately.

“Do we have any indication that there are people out there getting water and not paying for it?” Jessup asked.

“At the moment, yes,” Bullard said. “We have quite a few that we are working, and I’ve been working closely with Tammy (Dorough) to get a lockout list.”

Jessup asked if Bullard had identified any so far.

“I’ve got one or two so far, and we are going to do another accurate count as meter reading goes on to make sure,” he said. “We are comparing the past billing histories with the current histories to find them.”

Bullard said to get accurate reading at meter-reading time, the employees will slow down.

“Normally would take two or three to read the 1,200 meters in the system,” he said. “We are actually going to slow down from three days to actually take a week to get better accurate readings to make sure we don’t have a mess-up like we did this past month.”

Jessup asked if Bullard thinks some of the issues with inaccuracy are due to being in a hurry and if this would help.

“We are in too big a hurry and I think slowing down the process will help,” he said.

Councilman Jimmy Hollander asked if the city had black patch, or coal patch, out there.

“Is there any way that while a couple of them are out reading meters that you can go around and throw some black patch out?” he said. “There are people starting to complain about the holes.”

Councilman Bill Cantley said that would definitely slow the meter-reading down.

“If you got two reading meters and he just went around with some in the back of the truck to pack some of the holes up, catch a few of them,” Hollander said. “I’m not talking about going through the whole city, just getting some of them to quiet everyone down some.”

Bullard asked if there were any certain areas that needed addressing.

“I know of Broken Arrow Creek Road that has two big potholes,” Hollander said.

Jessup said Sisson Lane.

“You can’t hardly drive up Sugar Farm Road,” Councilman Frank Riddle said.

Jessup said the snow and ice did a lot of damage.

“You are starting a process to count every meter, and you are going to compare it against the current billing system,” Jessup said to Bullard. “You are comparing inactive lists with active lists to see if there is maybe a meter out there or two that has water running through it that nobody is paying for. Do you think there is a possibility that someone has tapped onto our system and is stealing water that way?”

Bullard said he is pretty sure that if someone was doing that it would have been reported.

“So if we’ve got people out there that aren’t paying for water, and they are using water and not paying for it, your best guess is that it is probably been a meter that has been locked out and they’ve cut the lock and using it like that?” Jessup said.

Bullard said it was and the best way to address that is to check the meters.

Councilman Bill Cantley asked how the city came out counting the water bills versus what they thought the U.S. Postal Service might be losing.

“We did an accurate count,” Jessup said. “We hand-counted the bills and so we know that they got mailed, but we did have a dozen or two-dozen who didn’t get their bill. Not as many as last month. Last month, probably half the town didn’t get their bill, so we still have some issues there. We are going to continue to do due diligence on our end to make sure.”

Riddle said he would like Bullard to ride down to Roberts Mill Pond Road to see how the County has cut the right-of-way and see if we can’t get the streets of Riverside cut that way.

“We got a $90,000 tractor sitting out here that’s been used a couple hours,” he said.

In other matters Tuesday, the council:

O Approved a resolution regarding St. Clair County’s collection of ad valorem taxes. Hollander asked if that was the resolution the council previously discussed and wanted to ensure there were no changes. Jessup said he spoke with St. Clair County Revenue Commissioner Elizabeth Mealer and nothing had changed.

O Tabled discussion of the St. Clair County Council of the Arts using the Riverside Landing marina building as an art gallery to the March 11 work session.

O Approved an off-premises beer license at the Bait Shop for Joyce Whaley in a 5-1 vote. Jessup, Hollander, Riddle, Cantley and Osborn voted for the motion. Councilman Kenny Womack voted against the license.

Contact Elsie Hodnett at ehodnett@dailyhome.com.