MEIGS — Local officials are disputing the events that led to public works employees repairing a leaky water pipe on private property.
Mayor Cheryl Walters conducted an investigation into the incident, which occurred at a Four Corners cotton gin-owned annex property last month.
The city council is slated to address the issue at its June 17 meeting.
Four Corners had been struggling with a persistent leak at their storage facility on West Marshall Street, leading to monthly water bills costing hundreds of dollars.
The company eventually became aware that the fault was in one of the city’s pipes and they contacted the public works department to request that the water be shut off.
City employees were sent to the property to investigate after the move failed to completely halt the flow of water.
Public works director Leonard Gibson said that in order for the pipes to be repaired, the entire city’s water supply would have to be shut down anywhere from eight to nine hours.
“It we had cut-off (valves) on the street we could go and just cut that spot off and work on it,” he said. “We don’t have cut-offs, so we have to cut off the whole town to stop the water.”
Typically the city’s water service ends at the meter, but instead Gibson determined that the leak could be repaired without shutting down the entire city by entering the property itself.
“It was something that we had done in the past, so we didn’t see where it was a problem,” Gibson said.
Council member Tommy White observed city employees on private property and took pictures to document the event, leading to a confrontation with fellow Council member Edward Eason, himself an employee of Four Corners.
“I wasn’t there to see what was said between them, but it wasn’t that pretty,” Gibson said.
Neither White nor Eason commented.
The issue resurfaced during last month’s council meeting, and Walters said it was included on Monday’s agenda at the urging of White, who initially wanted to discuss the incident during closed session.
During the meeting the actors involved will have the opportunity to state their accounts of the story, but Walters said there is little action the council can take aside from setting a policy to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“The only decision that would possibly be made is if a council member brings up a motion that we either repair leaks to prevent the entire water system being turned off or if we do not,” Walters said. “That’s the only possible motion.”
One of the council’s current priorities is to install a new water system featuring cut-off valves, which may have prevented the incident from taking place.
“Right now, if there’s a pipe leaking near the city or some kind of leak the public works team has to turn off the entire water system to the town,” Walters said.
Gibson said the city’s water supply has to be shut down when “major pipes,” typically two inches or larger, need to be repaired.
Even if a repair takes just one hour, the public works director said it can often take six to seven hours for water to return to customers, an event which has occurred at least three times within the past two months.
“It’s an ongoing problem, and the citizens are really getting upset with it,” Gibson said.
The cut-off valve issue also will be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.