Dealing with limited water pressure or no water at all for over three days now, residents of Robeline and Marthaville are at their wits end. A meeting of the Robeline-Marthaville Water System held Monday, Dec. 19, discussed steps needed to get the system operational again. Board members present were James and Carroll Daniels and Board President Tommy O’Con. Marvin Davis, Marcie Mitchell and Fran Nelson (secretary and treasurer) weren’t at the meeting.
Fire District 7 Chief Doug Birdwell had two 3,000 gallon portable water tanks set up at station 1 in Robeline and station 2 in Marthaville so homeowners can flush their toilets. The Sheriff’s Office and the Red Cross office in Shreveport delivered bottled water Monday afternoon.
“The main deal now is for cooking water and drinking water,” said Birdwell. “We need something.”
It seems the solution is dependent on how much money the system has to spend on a new pump. However there’s no quick fix in sight. A new pump will cost $50,000, not including electrical and other costs. This could take 6-8 weeks to be installed.
The board passed a motion to authorize Operator Randy Byrd to do whatever it takes to get a bladder tank for a short-term solution and to make long-term plans to get a variable pump.
The water has never been drinkable or reliable, according to customers, which seemed to be an underlying issue at the meeting. Homeowners voiced their frustration over appliances burning up due to the water being cut off frequently. It’s become an even bigger health and safety issue for customers and the system’s operator.
“Every time Randy goes to the plant he puts his life on the line,” said Carroll Daniels, who went on to say the plant could blow at any time.
Beyond this, if a fire were to break out, the fire hydrants connected to the system would be useless.
“I hope and pray that we don’t have a major fire that requires lots of water,” said Birdwell. “Fire District 7 has paid for six fire hydrants at $5,500 each that have been installed over the last 5 years on the system. The fire hydrants were bought with taxpayer money and we can’t use them. I have been contacted by other fire districts offering their assistance if needed. We do not know at this time when the issue will be solved.”
Another issue, considered by customers to be the source of their problems, is the lack of money. Customers questioned why there was no money, but without Nelson present at the meeting, an answer couldn’t be given. The board passed a motion to require Fran Nelson to come to work at the water system’s office during regular business hours so customers can easily reach her for answers. However, customers at the meeting said they’d rather makes cuts at the office, which has three employees. In their opinion, if money is needed to fix their water system, it could be attained by having a single person run the office. According to the customers, a single employee runs the Belmont Water System’s office and it has around double the customers the R-MV system has.
“My issue is we’ve known something like this was going to happen for years,” said customer Amanda Freeman. “Why weren’t steps taken years ago to get the funding to prevent us from being in this situation?”
The Natchitoches Parish Journal provided live coverage of Monday’s meeting, during which the Robeline-Marthaville Water System board was asked to provide financial statements to help account for the lacks of funding. Board President Tommy O’Con said the 2015 tax return was available for public inspection. Look below for the full document.
NOTE – It appears that the water system might have been spending “restricted” or “reserved” cash as of December 31, 2015