Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Water Department Investigation Voted Down

A requested investigation of San Angelo's Public Water Department failed to pass by a 4-3 vote in today's City Council meeting.  The Standard Times reported:

Mayor New agree that, based on the loss of confidence through the large furniture purchase and customer service and meter issues, the department lost a great deal of public confidence.

The final, crushing blow to public confidence came from the Water Department Chief's son being fired as a City Engineer, then being subcontracted to work on the Hickory Water Pipeline.  

After the top two Water Department leaders "surprise" retired, the public saw more red flags.  That's when petition numbers jumped (now up to 477).

Two issues raised ethical concerns of water department leaders, now departed, while the other involved basic customer service. Ironically, identifying inordinately high water usage was a feature of the new electronic water meters:

The daily readings include the amount of water used each hour during the previous day, which will assist the City and residents in researching unusual water usage patterns that may result from leaks or malfunctioning sprinkler systems.

Rather than prevent such issues, it appears the new meters contributed to the problem.

It's management's job to know the water operation is being run professionally and ethically.  The public has good reason to doubt.  The public watched Council plaster over the purchase and installation of $100,000 in furniture without required approval. The City's Furniture Fiasco investigation was never shared with the public.

The public learned Water Chief Will Wilde's son Blake had been fired and was "not eligible for rehire."  Disgust grew when the public found out Blake's new engineering firm had been hired to work on the Hickory Pipeline. 

One could interpret the 4-3 vote to not conduct an investigation in several ways.  It could be seen as:

1. Council chose to blame the 475 people who signed the petition, most for not coming forward.  
2. Council chose to let nonpublic methods of dealing with issues and concerns run their course.
3.  A combination of the two.

Does Council realize this topic surfaced in the last four public meetings?

"I think for the citizens, an outside investigation is warranted, is needed and is necessary," Councilman Dwain Morrison said. "If I get four votes, it's done and if I don't get four votes, I'll bring it up again."

How long before it returns?  I look forward to hearing the city's plans to replace the Water Department Director.  An ethical, experienced outside person would bring a new set of eyes to San Angelo's Water Department. That could fulfill one aim of an investigation.

Update 1-13-13:  The Standard Times ran an opinion piece supporting the denial of an outside investigation into the water department.   They prescribed management oversight. 

No comments: