Chandler out as consultant for water authority

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Butler County Water Authority terminated its contract with consultant Malloy Chandler on Monday, but some water customers issued a call for the resignation of two board members for their past support of Pioneer Electric's former general manager.

REMAC President Margaret Pierce presented the water authority with a petition asking for the resignation of board chairman Lamar Giddens and board member Thelma Mixon. Both, said Pierce, have been ardent supporters of Chandler - who was paid a salary of $5,000 per month by the BCWA to act as consultant on water operations in the county. Chandler retired from Pioneer Electric in January 2005, but his tenure at the multi-county cooperative remains a point of contention among rural electrical and water customers, who allege he and Pioneer's trustees grossly mismanaged funds.

Pierce also said Mixon serves as a Board of Trustee with Pioneer Electric Cooperative, which represents a &#8220clear conflict of interest.”

Mixon did not publicly comment on the petition.

Giddens said he did not intend to resign.

&#8220They (the water customers) did not put me on this board,” he said, referencing the petition, which Pierce said held over 100 signatures. &#8220I don't feel I've done anything against this water system. I've always worked on behalf of the customer.”

At issue on Monday was a contract to renew Chandler's contract with the BCWA for a period of one-year. However, Giddens said Chandler indicated to him on Sunday that he would not accept another contract.

&#8220Contrary to what you think of Mr. Chandler he's been a fair person with us,” said Giddens.

When Giddens announced Chandler's intentions, board member Charles Rogers called for a motion to accept the resignation immediately rather than waiting for maturity of Chandler's current contract, which ends in June.

Board member Tommie Hamilton seconded the motion.

&#8220We have a responsibility to the public and not to Mr. Chandler,” he said. Water customers at the meeting applauded Hamilton's statement.

Giddens initially cast a vote against the motion - creating a three-way tie - but then withdrew his vote. The motion passed, with Rogers, Hamilton, and board member Dan Driscoll voting for, and Mixon and Joe McCraney voting against.

Pierce said although the BCWA cut ties with Chandler at Monday's meeting, she still felt Mixon and Giddens should resign.

&#8220There are still issues and people are signing this petition without hesitation,” she said.

One issue, said Pierce, was the creation of the Butler County Water Supply District, a cooperative enterprise between the BCWA and Greenville to search out alternative sources of water for both the city and county. Pierce has called the new board an attempt to &#8220monopolize” future water supplies.

Geological studies conducted of the sand aquifer beneath Butler County have indicated Greenville and the county could be facing a water shortage in the future.

Giddens said Greenville - with its increasing number of economic development projects - is in greater need of water than the county.

&#8220We're (the county) not going to run out of water tomorrow,” he said.

The water supply district is close to purchasing land near the Butler-Crenshaw County line to drill a test well, which would tap into the deep Tuscaloosa aquifer. To bring that water back into Greenville would cost an estimated $1 million per mile, according to Giddens.

The question of future water supply concerns is a controversial issue even among BCWA board members. Hamilton said a drop in the number of farms had reduced the amount of water used in the outlying areas of the county. As a result, he said, the Ripley aquifer - Butler County's main source of groundwater - had stabilized.

&#8220It's not going down as quickly as it was,” he said.