Ferriday rates deserve more explanation

Published 12:05am Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In Ferriday, a turn of the faucet elicits a bit of suspicion on the part of many town residents.

Who could blame them?

In 1999, residents endured a 124-day boil-water notice after the town’s water plant began malfunctioning. Beginning in 2009, residents were told to boil water for nearly a year.

Those were perhaps the worst moments in the foul-smelling history of the water plant.

Tonight, Ferriday aldermen are expected to hear public input on a proposal to raise both water and garbage rates for residents.

The proposed rate increases would raise residential water rates by $6 each month and $10 per month for garbage collection.

The water rate increases would help repay a USDA loan that will partially fund construction of a new, modern water plant.

Asking residents to pay for better water before the town provides it is asking for a leap of faith that, quite frankly, most residents no longer have in the town’s water supply.

The garbage increases seem tied to an approximately $200,000 unpaid bill the city accrued over a year or so ago to its former collection contractor Waste Management. That such a bill was allowed to get out of hand is not residents’ fault; it’s poor town financial oversight.

Ferriday Mayor Gene Allen said the town is using the excess fees collected from residential garbage customers — supplemented with general fund money — to repay the unpaid bill. At the current rate, the bill should be knocked out in approximately two years.

That’s not ideal, but at least the town is working the debt down.

Someone in Ferriday’s government needs to do a better job of explaining to residents the exact reason why the rate increases are necessary or else residents will view the town leaders with the same suspiciousness that accompanies each turn of the spigot.