Wise move on behalf of Mayor Flaggs

Published 7:35 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

In 2016, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a contract with Water Company of America of Houston, Texas to audit the city’s water system and find users who weren’t paying for water service.

The city’s contract with Water Company of America is a contingency-based contract, which, under the agreement, the company would not be paid unless it discovered unbilled water use in the city.

If the company’s auditors discover unbilled use, according to the agreement, they would notify the city’s utility billing department and receive 55 percent of the past due amount for a 36-month period. After that time, the city would retain 100 percent of the revenue from the previously unbilled account.

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At the time, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. came under fire for the decision to hire the company.

“We had a company come in here at no cost and people looked at me like I was crazy, because they get 55 percent of everything they recovered,” Flaggs said last Friday.

But hiring the company, he said, “Was a no-brainer.”

Last Friday, the agreement proved to be a prudent decision, when city attorney Nancy Thomas announced that Ergon Biofuels agreed to pay the city of Vicksburg $904,317.68 in uncollected fees for water service.

The agreement, Thomas said, involved water passing through a city water meter that was not read “and it had been there for quite some time.”

She said the meter was discovered through an audit of the water system by representatives of Water Company of America.

Flaggs said the Ergon meter was not the first discrepancy the company has found, adding he expects to get a list of other instances where people or companies were getting water either free or at a very low cost.

City-owned utility systems have to be able to pay for themselves. And that makes hiring companies like Water Company of America important. Cities like Vicksburg are not large enough to have a staff of auditors who can keep a constant eye on utilities to make sure the city’s all customers are paying their fair share.

The city has privatized its water and sewer plants, which so far have proven to be sound moves. Hiring Water Company of American has also been a sound move to provide a watchdog that will help ensure the city receives every penny that is owed for the service it provides.