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PRICHARD, Ala. (WPMI) Despite the approval of Mobile County voters in June, the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System will not take over the Prichard Water Board, the county-wide agency announced Tuesday.
“It is with much regret we announce today that the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System cannot take over the Prichard Water Works due to a number of issues beyond MAWSS’ control,” a news release from MAWSS said, “This decision was reached after an intense assessment of the system’s current contractual obligations, financial stability and its capital needs.”
MAWSS said it decided against takeover because of a deal the Prichard Water Board signed with its supplier, Severn Trent, 11 days before the June election on the referendum.
“That’s what you call a poison-pill,” MAWSS Director Charles Hyland, Jr. said, “That’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, they knew that and it’s just unbelievable.”
MAWSS Board Chair Maynard Odom said that contract, along with “numerous new contracts with an engineering firm, lobbyists, a public relations firm and a consultant” were also reasons MAWSS will not take over. Odom said paying for those services and other financial obligations left the Prichard Water Board with “severe cash flow problems.”
According to records provided to Local 15 News by MAWSS, the Prichard Water Board was already two months behind in its payments to Severn Trent when it voted to extend the contract with the supplier.
As of Tuesday, Prichard Water is three months behind tallying a debt of more than .2 million.
Prichard Water Board’s own financial records, also made public by MAWSS, show the board has a 74% operational cost when it should be at 115%.
Despite that debt, MAWSS said the Prichard Water Board still entered into a new contract with lobbyists and consultants to fight against the referendum.
“They’re very greedy, they’re corrupt, and they just need to be stopped,” State Representative Napoleon Bracy said Tuesday. Bracy had been a vocal critic of the Prichard Water Board. “I think they had very ill intentions from the very beginning, that’s why they did it.”
Prichard Water Board Chair Russel Heidelburge did not return calls seeking comment on the MAWSS announcement or accusations from Bracy.
“The financial stability of this organization is not there and the rate-payers are going to suffer,” Bracey added.
Prichard Mayor Troy Ephriam, who had been a supporter of the Water Board’s efforts to fight the takeover was pleased with MAWSS decision not to move forward with the takeover.
“The Mayor and City Council of Prichard have stood together in opposition of the MAWSS takeover of Prichard Water,” Ephriam said in a news release late Tuesday night, “Now that MAWSS has cast the final vote in this election, the City is prepared to work directly with Prichard Water to effect the change our citizens sought in June.”