Wednesday, May 9, 2018
JACKSON Two weeks ago, the Jackson City Council voted to accept Public Works Director Bob Miller's proposal to rework the Siemens Inc. contract in order to start getting accurate water bills out to customers and recoup lost revenue. In the last six months, the City has spent $10 million more than it has brought in, depleting savings as it misses out on as much as $3 million a month and nearly half of all water and sewer revenues, Miller said at a press conference on April 30.
"Just as individuals in the community could not deal with half of their paycheck monthly, the City is not in a position where we can continue to deal with half of the enterprise fund coming in," Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said at that press conference.
Bills will be released over the next six months, the largest among them set to go out first, Miller said. Jacksonians who have not received a water bill anytime in the last year or who have elected not to pay will be expected to pay for their current water usage as well as the back payments through a payment plan.
If customers have not received a bill in four months, they will have four months to pay past water bills, for example.
The updated contract requires Siemens and its subcontractors to help get the system going and working accurately in the next few months. Although there are skeptics about the contract, the mayor said that without a "buffet of options," the quickest remedy was to bring in Siemens because it knows the system better than anyone.
Lumumba said the City takes full responsibility for this "failure," but he also mentioned that while vacancies in the public-works department play an important factor in the problem, they are not the "sum total" of the problem.
As of April 30, Miller said there were six vacancies in the metering section, seven vacancies in billing and five in the collections department. Miller is confident that Jacksonians will repay the bills en masse.
"What I have found that citizens of Jackson are honorable honest bill-paying customers and that with that we anticipate that our long-term collection rate is going to be at 98 percent or something even higher than that," he said.
Read more on Jackson's water-billing debacle at jfp.ms/siemens.