Sunday, March 2, 2008

GUSC Needs to GO

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association met on February 25, 2008 and the Bessemer Water Service and the Bessemer Governmental Utility Services (GUSC) were the primary topic.

We discussed this in detail at the last meeting, but because there were new people in attendance we brought them up to date. District 7 Council Person Earl Cochran explained briefly the history of our water service and the formation of GUSC, and why it was necessary to have the Authority (GUSC) created at the time (in order to secure the financing to build the water plant and to stand as an entity between Covanta and the Water Service).

He also posed a question for GUSC. Where is the $3.7 million in bond money that was secured in 2002 for the purpose of generating resources for future debt service through 2008? That money has disappeared and is part of the reason we find ourselves in the crunch we are now in.

He told us it would take $62 million to buy our GUSC and “start all over again.”

The mayor’s assistant, Camillo Fuller, also spoke, and he explained how GUSC approved faulty changes in the construction of the water service (like changing 36 inch pipe to 30 inch, and reducing the number of inlets from the water source from 3 to 1, changes that decrease the efficiency of our water service and also increase the wear and tear on the infrastructure).

Once again the fact that bonds are issued to “friends” of the mayor (or council) without going through a bid process was brought up. We do not believe that this cronyism and favoritism is in the best interest of the city.

The BNA feels that as ratepayers we do not feel that our interests are being looked after. We feel that GUSC has not shown itself to be accountable (mis-handling $3.7 million, and their current budget). In addition, the changes to the system they authorized during the construction or planning phase show that they are not concerned about the long tern security of our water supply.

The BNA also has a concern that the GUSC board members are not held accountable to the citizens. We do not vote for them and have no control over them. They have the power to sell the system and the citizens, the City Council or the Mayor could not stop them.

The BNA believes that city buy out the management contract and allow the city utility company to manage the operation of the filter plant. GUSC as an entity should be dissolved. In addition, we want the resolution to include a provision stating that the water service would not be sold without a vote of the people.

On March 4, 2008 at 6:00 at City Hall the council will meet to address this issue. Public input is requested. BNA members will be there. We ask that you be there also.

In other business:

BNA is concerned about a former Bessemer official receiving a pension illegally. Documents relating to this were discussed and we will continue to investigate.

Future BNA issues were brought up. The BNA will sponsor a showing of Youth Violence, Inside the Skin, a 92 minute video directed by June Mack of UAB Department of Communication Studies that explores the origins of violence among local (Birmingham) children. Members of BNA have previewed the movie, and feel it will be of benefit in addressing problems plaguing our community. Date and details are still being worked out.

Another interest of BNA is Alabama Constitutional Reform. We are concerned, as many Alabamians are, about the racist origins of the 1901 document and the regressive policies still in place as a result. Joe Openshaw has spoken with Hill Carmichael of Greater Birmingham Ministries who is an advocate of constitutional reform about leading a forum for our community. Date has not been set.

Stay tuned for more details about these events.