You can’t have economic development without clean water

By Corey Poole

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In 60-90 days, the Robeline-Marthaville Water System will receive a comprehensive study of several options it can choose from to make the system successful and sustainable.

“This is an economic development issue for the Parish,” said Knox Ross, president and CEO of the Community Development Center in Shreveport. “If you can’t provide good water at a competitive rate people will find somewhere else to live.”

Ross stepped in to help the R-MV system get water flowing again after residents were without for several days before Christmas. Thanks to Ross; Leslie Durham, the Governor’s designee for the Delta Regional Authority and a slew of other officials from state organizations, a new pump was installed and the residents in Robeline and Marthaville had water just in time for Christmas.

However, this merely solved one problem. The system’s customers still have water that’s undrinkable. Residents say they can’t even cook with it. There’s also an estimated $500,000 worth of deferred maintenance and exorbitant operational costs.

While board members have been under fire for the mismanagement of the system, they’re committed to doing whatever it takes to find a solution.

“Our easiest option would be in hand in our resignations,” said Carroll Daniels. “But we haven’t done that yet because we really have an interest in serving our community.”

Knox said it best, “At the end of the day we don’t care who’s running it (the system). We care about finding the best, most cost effective long-term solution.”

Clarence Beebe with the Louisiana Rural Water Association performed a system comparison of the R-MV and two comparable systems (SEE PHOTO AT END OF ARTICLE). R-MV’s annual operating cots are $200,585, while the other systems are at $140,473 and $129,799. R-MV also has three office employees, one operator and an outside source for billing while the other systems are run with two employees respectively.

“Obviously there’s too much manpower there to do the job,” said Knox.

The R-MV system also pays its employees health benefits. “Maybe we had a soft heart that night and didn’t look at the finances enough,” said Carroll Daniels. Some employees didn’t have health insurance so we gave it to them. We rubber stamped and approved what came across our desk and that’s just what we’ve done.”

While cuts to administrative costs can be looked into immediately, there are bigger problems to deal with. System Operator Randy Byrd said all the meters need to be replaced. “You’re losing money right there.” Engineer Ken McManus estimated it’s a pretty high loss at 30-40 percent.

Option 1: Cut operating costs to free up capital to upgrade the system in-house by redoing the pump station on Nelson Road and drilling more wells at the Cassidy Springs Well. Robeline owns an acre surrounding the current well that Byrd managed to start up again, which would meet the space requirements for such an expansion project. This total project would cost an estimated $1 million.

Beebe was skeptical about this option because with the R-MV system’s recent rate increase to $34 a month and its current financial predicament, he said he finds it unfeasible that it would be able to pay for such an expensive project.

Option 2: Hook into the Sabine Parish Water District #1, buy water from this system and continue to run the R-MV system as its own entity.

“We’ve got good water and a lot of it and we’re willing to share our resources,” said Water Mains with the Sabine Parish Water District #1.

Option 3: With help from USDA Rural Development, look at what it would take to combine the R-MV and Sabine water systems. The R-MV system could maintain an office in Robeline for billing purposes or use a drop box system to collect payments. This tie-in would take 2.5 miles of additional pipes to connect the systems, at an estimated cost of $50,000 per mile.

“The best option may not be the least expensive one, but it’ll be the one that sets up this area for long-term service and success,” said Ross.

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11 thoughts on “You can’t have economic development without clean water

  1. does anyone know when the next water meeting will be ?
    everyone seems to be in the dark or they have it last minute
    and nobody can attend .

  2. let 3 people go in billing department,board resigns since they got us in this positon.And start reading meters like there supposed to and not guess on our bills .

  3. Water residents I was surprised the water bill has gone up a dollar more this month. Let’s hope it doesn’t go up each month a dollar more. We are paying for water that is totally unsafe for any usage. I hope the DRE will hire an intelligent individual to oversee this water system.

  4. Years of mismanagement have led to the current situation. The chart clearly shows the operating costs are almost twice that of larger systems. The board has not met their responsibilities to the owners of the water system. It is time for the management and board to step down or the people will vote them out. People are moving from the area and schools have been closed for several days. The board has not been able to produce records of expenditures and the office is way over staffed.

  5. I feel the board members should resign so a new board can be in place when the comprehensive report is ready. It is their poor decisions that have put us in this position. By their own admission they made decisions based on emotion and rubber stamped others. We need people making the decisions based on facts and what is best for the members as a whole…. good business decisions . They failed to serve us!

  6. I agree.I hate to see anyone lose there job,but there is to many people running the water office and with “benefits ” that’s crazy ! I also believe
    most the board members should resign.

  7. I think the whole group that is in charge at the Robeline office needs to be replaced with people who will take proper care of maintaining the repairs and someone that can keep the water safe to drink and take a bath without harm to the public’s health. Health insurance should be deducted from the ONE person that is needed to operate the billing of customers from that person’s pay check each month. I hope that in the future someone will monitor the upkeep of the plant if all repairs can be resolved. This has been an ongoing problems with repairs and safe drinking water for a long time. LETS BRING IN SOME NEW MINDS TO THE ROBELINE-MARTHAVILLE WATER SYSTEM!!! LET US UPDATE TO A HEALTHIER FUTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN

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