Around 15 families living either on or near Jud Brazier Road in Esom Hill have been without water since December. Wells that previously provided water to the area have dried up, leaving residents to turn to the Polk County Water Authority for help.
Since December, Jud Brazier residents and the authority board have discussed issues surrounding the lack of water.
The water authority contends that providing water to rural areas with few people is an expense they cannot afford. But Jud Brazier residents aren't happy with that explanation.
During the Polk County Commission’s March meeting, chairman Jason Ward said that the board would work alongside the Polk County Water Authority in an effort to search for funding that could be used towards securing water to the residents of Jud Brazier Road.
“We are working with Representative Trey Kelley to determine if there are grant funds available,” he said. “I will also draft a letter to the Polk County Water Authority (PCWA) asking that they pursue similar
His comments were made following an appeal from Crick Fincher and Lesa Jackson. They were part of a delegation attending the board’s March meeting.
Fincher used a congenial approach when addressing the board. “We need your help,” he said. “We don’t understand how the Polk County
Water Authority can have money for projects but can’t find a way to assist us.”
Fincher promised to do what is needed to get something done to solve the situation.
“I know the problem won’t fix itself,” he said.
Commissioner Marshelle Thaxton said most issues usually drill down to money. He asked the group to support efforts to secure grant funds.
Jackson presented a list of questions she wanted answered, including who had power over the Polk County Water Authority.
She said a change is needed to correct how PCWA operates. “They [water authority] can spend money for leaks but not for water
for people who need it,” she said.
Jackson also inquired, “Why can’t you get them off the board if you appoint them?”
Currently, the Polk County Board of Commissioners appoint members of the water authority to serve five-year terms.
Ward asked Brad McFall, county attorney, for an opinion.
McFall said he had talked to many people about the situation and advised that Polk County Water Authority is an independent governing
“We don’t control them,” he said. “They are answerable to the public.”
He said that any citizen dealing with the issue could get counsel to determine if the problem had risen to the level of taking the matter to court.
“There is little this board [county] can do rather than appoint members,” McFall said.
According to county files, the 1967 act of creating the Water Authority was amended in 1996 to rename the Authority to the Polk
County Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste Authority. It also added a sixth member, a county commissioner, and gave veto power to the board chairman.
In June of 2007, the act was further amended to make the county commission responsible for appointing the members of the water
authority, which were previously appointed by the grand jury.
However, that could change.
In order to gain more oversight into the water authority’s operation, the commissioners are currently working with Kelley to introduce new
legislation into the State House. This new legislation, if passed, would change the way the level of control the commissioners have over the water authority.
The new legislation would change certain provisions relating to the appointment, taking of office, and terms of office of members of the water authority.
“The board of commissioners will work with Kelley in any manner possible, with the understanding that any changes made will be well thought out in order to maintain as much independence as possible for the Water Authority while providing some level of oversight to elected officials,” Ward said.
“We certainly understand the board must sometimes make tough political decisions to pursue its long-term strategies of providing low-cost water to as many Polk residents as possible.”