Reader's thoughts on community, sewer issue

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2004

By Staff
Dear Editor;
Community: A society of people having common rights and privileges. (As defined in Webster's Dictionary.)
Recently the people of East and West Alexander Heights subdivisions met publicly with the Mayor and the City Council of Brewton to discuss our sewer problems. We came to the council hat in hand in an attempt to resolve our issues. The council and the mayor left us with the feeling they would help as we stood or sat with our children before them. As I have read in the papers for the past two days, it would appear that we, and the children present, were not told the truth.
We have heard of the derogatory comments regarding our neighborhoods made by some outside of our presence. Now, they have decided to publicly deride us by attempting to turn our fellow citizens against us with their comments in both of the local papers. Politics aside gentlemen, I expected more from you, men I have respected and most of whom I have grown up with in this town over the past 50 years.
I read that everyone has paid for their own sewage when it was put in. Really? How? It wasn't figured into the cost of the lot since the real estate developer was only recently required to have sewer pipes installed on property being developed within the city limits. The mayor told me this himself at our meeting. Did the individual pay for the materials, the laying of the pipe, the wages of the workers, the supervisors salaries, etc.? I think not. Of course that is what is now proposed to us.
Recently, the city ran sewerage to the Bell Spirit subdivision north of town. They didn't ask for it but they got it. They were charged a hookup fee only. The people of the subdivision across from Dogwood Hills were charged a hookup fee only. Hookup fees are not intended to recoup anything but the hookup of the house to the trunk line itself, hence the name. But they didn't pay for the running of the line to their subdivision or the laying of the pipe within that subdivision.
Councilman Huff, if you think it is tough to come up with $39 a month try to come up with $233.33 per month ($14,000 over five years) for sewerage.
The incremental implementation of sewer improvements proposed by Councilman Dunaway and Councilman Huff is the smart way to go. Scaring the heck our of our citizens with the promise of huge sewer bill increases needed for a civil society to succeed. If we are to implement a pay as you go system, as our mayor is recommending, it opens up a dangerous situation for all of Brewton's citizens.
For example, take the mayor's stated sewerage needs for this town of $18 million dollars. If we divide that by $14,000 then that is 1286 homes in this town that might have to pay $14,000 over five years to have their sewerage problems corrected. That's 43 percent of this town that the mayor is asking to shoulder future burden by themselves rather than as a group. Yet, he has made you believe that it is only a few of us that are the problem. Why is that?
Of course, up until this past week, the city has always expected all of us to pay for services we do not use, have used but do not anymore, or may use in the future. This list might include things such as: the fire department, the library, Dogwood Hills, the city schools, Brewton International Airport, the police department and Brewton Athletics programs.
I'm not saying that we do not need these services. They enrich our lives and the community as well. But I would venture to say that the majority of the town does not use any one item at any one time, but we all pay for them as witnessed in the mayor's budget he just presented to the city council.
The mayor himself drives a car supplied by our tax dollars that, by his own admission (pay as you use), he should be paying for himself. People that live in glass houses…..
Our group didn't cry foul when the city donated $100,000 to help people outside the city limits get much needed sewer. We didn't even bring up the matter at our meeting. We applaud the fact that a neighborhood that had suffered so much these past years was finally getting help, regardless of where it was located. That's what good citizens do in a community, right? In fact, no one on the council voted against the proposal. But I never heard anyone say that this was going to cost each household in Brewton $33.33. Again, why is that?
Now, to address the immediate needs of our community ($4.748 million or 26.38 percent of $18 million), it will cost us all $10.29 per month for 20 years and not $39. It would be $8.71 for 30 years. Councilman Dunaway asked for a breakdown for incremental repairs at the meeting we attended. That's what one does when strapped for cash. That's smart leadership and I applaud him for it.
He, and Councilman Huff, have repeatedly said this should not be considered as an $18 million dollar project as the mayor has outlined, but that seems to be falling on deaf ears.
Councilman Dunaway wants to address the immediate needs of an entire city and not just his district. Our neighborhood is only 3.76 percent of the total problem and 14 percent of the immediate capitalization need. Yet, that has been lost in the political rhetoric on all except Councilman Dunaway. It is easy to attack us because we represent only two small neighborhoods and we are in his district.
The question is where are all the affected neighborhoods in the city that need sewer repairs? Are you in one of them? And, do you want to pay for your individual sewer repairs as well? That is what the mayor wants you to do.
What appears to be a gesture of concern for the community is, in actuality, one of the worst management decisions I have ever seen made by the city.
Councilman Dunaway has asked tough questions of the council and the mayor. I cant' help but feel that our problem has been blown our of proportion and misdirected due to the coming election and the desire of some to eliminate Councilman Dunaway from his seat. The mishandling of this is so blatantly inappropriate that it can only be politics. Please tell us this is so and not actually the limit of the mayor and the council's capabilities because, if it is, we are all in trouble.
True leadership is the bringing of a community together. It's looking for the best way to resolve a problem for all concerned. It is working towards a consensus that best fits the town of which I thought we were all a part. It is looking into the eyes of the citizens and telling them the truth.
I have supported this community all my life, paying for a lot but asking for little. I pay my taxes willingly in support of everyone regardless of who they are, where they live or what they do. I just thought that was what we were supposed to do as a community. Was I wrong mayor?
Rick Wilson