Video shows falsehoods about Farmville water bills

June 9, 2022

At the Town of Farmville (TOF) Board of Commissioners meeting on the evening of June 6, 2022 there were several comments made by at least one town official that were false. I was treated as if I were the one with misinformation. It was presented as if the manager in the water department of the Greenville Utilities Commission (GUC) with whom I had spoken for several years had misled me. This was not the case. Since then, I have shared the relevant GUC email with Farmville’s town manager as well as the attached rate schedule from GUC to ToF regarding our wholesale water rates and the name of this GUC manager. This original email was carbon copied to GUC’s Director of Water Resources at the time it was sent to me. There was nothing false about it.

Please watch the linked video from the Farmville board meeting of June 6, 2022. For at least six minutes before the citizen’s presentations I was “in the zone” with my nose in my papers, carefully studying the facts that I was going to present. At approximately 16:00 I was told that we would have three minutes to make each presentation and that Amy Johnson would give us a 30-second warning if we needed one. This had long been the protocol. I began speaking at 16:55. The numbers I proceeded to present were verified and triple-checked. After two minutes and thirty seconds of me speaking, Commissioner Elks said, “time’s up.” Mayor Moore immediately said, “time.” Amy Johnson then corrected them. She said I still had 30 seconds. Although Elks and Moore tried to cut me off, I heard Johnson and continued in my normal public speaking voice. As I do when giving children’s sermons almost every Sunday, I spoke loudly and clearly, projecting for the large room.

When the floor was opened for residents to make comments about the budget, at about 32:35 I began speaking. I thought it needed to be understood that the cost of actual water was only a small portion of our total residential water bill. Our family just paid $50 for our usage of 5,000 gallons. Less than $11 of that was for actual water. We also paid for maintenance of the water system, the town employees who work with water infrastructure or water billing, etc., as water customers everywhere must do in order to have service.

Town Manager David Hodgkins said he did not know the specifics of a particular part of my comments. He did not bring his notes because he “didn’t know this would be an issue.” The Commissioners were about to vote on a 14% increase in our residential water rates, but the town manager did not think this might be an issue. Evidently, he was surprised that anyone came to speak up about it. Perhaps more of us need to make our voices heard at these board meetings. The next one is on June 27 at 5:30 PM. Our water, electric, sewer, and solid waste collection bills are all scheduled to go up on July 1. The commissioners all voted for that Monday night.

I mentioned a three cents per 1,000 gallon increase in wholesale water costs. David Hodgkins said, “It’s never as low as 3 cents.” Actually, in our current fiscal year, the increase from the previous year was 2.7 cents, so his statement was an utter falsehood. He went on to say that “it’s always been anywhere between five to ten percent.” I kept using dollar and cent amounts while he continued to say percentages. Later he explained to me that he thought the dollar and cent amounts made it more difficult for us, the customers, to understand. I totally disagree. If we told Farmville residents in June of last year that the cost of actual water was going up less than three cents per 1,000 gallons, they would have been shocked to see their entire water bill go up by 6%. Giving percentages for the wholesale water rate is less transparent or clouds the facts, in my opinion.

After I brought up Farmville’s initial agreement with GUC and that it was a five-year plan, Hodgkins said he thought the increases were for the first three years. In actuality, it was a plan which began on July 1, 2015. We started with a rate which went up by ten cents each year for four consecutive years.

On the cover letter for the June 2022 agenda summary and at Monday’s meeting, Hodgkins repeatedly called our water rate increase from GUC a “ten percent increase.” That was not true. It was a seven percent increase. The increase per 1,000 gallons was 15.3 cents for the current $2.177 rate. This is precisely why I believe it is better for us to know dollar and cent amounts. If someone claims it is a ten percent increase when it actually is a seven percent increase, it is difficult to know what is correct. To reason that 100% of our water bill must go up by 14% because 22% of our bill went up by 7% does not make mathematical sense.

Please note that some rate increases are warranted. Costs have gone up dramatically in the last year and continue to do so. Farmville has not had an electric rate increase in years. We, however, should not blindly accept all increases of all amounts. Many people are hurting financially and already have high utility bills, so the town should work hard not to add salaries or expenses to the budget. Rate increases will hurt the poorest Farmville residents the most.

At 59:00, during closing comments by citizens, I was able to go up with the exact information which I had from the GUC wholesale water rate chart. This corrected several of the comments the town manager previously had made. The mayor spoke as if GUC had to clear up some misunderstanding. That was not accurate. Every chart and every dollar amount given to me by GUC water resources management has been consistent and accurate. The numbers always have added up. There has been no discrepancy there.

Please watch this video to see exactly how elected officials acted and hear the words that were spoken. There will be no comments allowed for this blog post on this site. If someone shares this blog to their Facebook page or Twitter feed, I have no control over any comments there.

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