At a regular meeting Sept. 24, Montgomery City Council heard a report from Michael Williams, vice president of operations from Gulf Utility Service, explaining the city could only account for 81% of the water it provided to residents in August. The city typically records a 90-95% accountability rate. The loss is part of an ongoing decline in water accountability that began in June when the city water accountability rate dipped to 89%.
Williams said the pumps in the city water plant overflowed, which may have contributed to the water loss. He also said GUS will begin using digital monitors that can more accurately tell when a pump is overflowing.
“We didn’t actually see a physical overflow, but we did see evidence of overflow on the grounds and then behind the plant where the water was dumped,” Williams said.
Council Member Rebecca Huss said the ongoing loss has now cost the city approximately $40,000 and asked how 5 million gallons of water can disappear over the course of several months without anyone noticing.
“There’s a lot of equipment not working, a lot of people not noticing that 5 million gallons of water are missing,” Huss said. “It just feels like your guys are not either out here, not paying attention, you have equipment that’s not working—that this has been the third month of accountability being an issue, and you guys are not taking it as seriously as we are.”
Several other council members echoed Huss’ statement, asking for a clearer plan to protect the city’s water.
“As much and as precious as that resource is, right?” Council Member John Bickford said. “And the amount of revenue that it generates for the city, which is not trivial, the expense it takes to get it out of the ground, which is not trivial—that’s got to be a priority.”
Director of Public Works Mike Muckleroy defended Williams, saying there may be other issues, such as incorrect billing, that contributed to the water loss, not just overflow.
“We know that was part of the problem; we don’t know if it was the whole problem,” Muckleroy said.
Imelda, permits and recognition
- City Administrator Richard Tramm said the city was not hit hard by Tropical Storm Imelda, but was prepared for the storm nonetheless.
- Council recommended the Planning and Zoning Committee award a special use permit to Larry Jacobs, who plans on opening a small hotel-motel-type business on his property at Clepper Street. Council held a brief, informal public comment period, during which a neighbor said he supported Jacobs’ business but wanted council to use caution before considering rezoning the area.
- The city recognized the years of service of former city administrator Jack Yates, who retired this summer.
Montgomery City Council with former city administrator Jack Yates. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)[/caption]