King: ‘We have accountability problem’

Councilman wants ‘study’ of WASA controversy

King: ‘We have accountability problem’

There has been a lot of talk recently about the relationship between the Peachtree City Council and the Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). [See Letter to the Editor.] Councilman Mike King on May 2 added a new wrinkle to the conversation by recommending an outside study to sort out and help resolve the issues.

King’s suggestion came at the conclusion of a council workshop. His comments came after Mayor Vanessa Fleisch cited past changes in contract agreements with entities such as the airport authority.

“Because of some of the recent developments, I think it’s time now that we look at WASA as well, and its relationship with the city,” Fleisch said, then turning to King.

WASA Chairman Bill Holland by press time could not be reached for comments on the council suggestions made at the May 2 meeting.

“Three and half or four years ago there was a letter-writing campaign that was on this dais, and right now we’ve got one whether we asked for it or not,” said King, bringing the topic to today, and the conversations and letters pertaining to WASA and the city.

“And I would ask that common decency (prevail), and let’s be an adult about it,” King said. “Let’s just stop this. It’s not doing anybody any good. Right now, whether it’s perceived or real, we have an accountability problem with the citizens of Peachtree City.”

“Some people are saying that the sewer rates are high, but by the same token the amount of money that’s paid off in bonds and everything else, our citizens and rate-payers are the ones that have actually paid those bonds. So they ought to have a voice,” King said.

“I’m hearing a lot of movement that says we need to bring WASA under control,” said King. “Well, that’s emotion, and that’s not being very objective about what needs to be done. We’ve had a conversation about, perhaps, having someone do a study to lay out every issue there could be between the city and WASA right now, whether that goes from payment to employees as compared to city employees to what the relationships are.”

“We’ve got lawyers disagreeing on whether or not the City Council has the authority currently to allow capacity to go outside the city limits. It’s going on and on,” he said. King noted that what is happening is not a new issue for Peachtree City. “It’s been going on probably as long as most of us have been in here,” he added.

“So I would ask that we put our heads together so that everybody understands what’s going on,” King said, adding that he wants WASA’s input on how the issues might be handled to resolve the issues and the perception. “I don’t want to control WASA and I’m sure (WASA) doesn’t want (the council) to do it either. Let’s fix this thing once and for all.”

King continued, saying he believed the city is prepared to fund the study. He suggested that the attorney that helped with the Lake Peachtree agreement, or another attorney available to do so, might be considered, adding that council approval would likely be needed.

Following the comments by King were those by councilmen Phil Prebor and Terry Ernst.

“I agree with what your saying, Mike,” said Prebor. “I get hit all day with it. Right, wrong or indifferent, I don’t know. But there’s a mistrust. The City Council has to work with WASA for the benefit of all the citizens because that’s what we’re here to do. So there’a perception that we’re not working together, so we need to fix it and be done with it.”

“We just need to air this thing out. Rather than letting it fester, we need to fix it,” King said in response to Prebor’s comment.

Ernst then weighed in on the topic saying that he agreed, and adding that one of the reasons he ran for a council post was because, “We had a dysfunctional City Council at that time. They couldn’t make a decision. They wanted to make decisions but they argued among themselves. And we fixed that. This council has fixed a lot of that. And I don’t want, as we go forward, to have that same dysfunctional attitude between any of the authorities in the city.”

The council may take up the issue of an outside study in the coming weeks.