Wicks provides 3-year water department overview

CONYERS -- Dwight Wicks, Rockdale's embattled director of Water Resources, provided a three-year overview of the system's operations to the Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, highlighting the fact that the system operated in the black in 2011 for the first time in four years.

Wicks' presentation, which is an annual occurrence, comes on the heels of a vote by the Board of Commissioners in June not to extend Wicks' contract when it expires in December. The resolution was proposed by the Rockdale County Water and Sewerage Authority and supported by Commissioners JanNice Van Ness and Oz Nesbitt. Chairman Richard Oden opposed the resolution.

At the time the resolution was approved, Nesbitt pointed out that Wicks will be free to apply for the position when his contract expires. And on Tuesday night, Nesbitt praised Wicks for his report, which gave highlights for the years 2008-2011. Nesbitt called Wicks' report "clean, crisp and detailed and to the point." Nesbitt also said he thought it was important that Wicks had differentiated between what happened with RWR while he was at the helm and when he wasn't.

"Hats off to your team, and I certainly do appreciate this report this evening," Nesbitt said.

Wicks was with the department from 2005 until 2007 when he was terminated over a disagreement with the then-Board of Commissioners. He was rehired in 2009 soon after Oden was elected.

In his report Tuesday, Wicks said that when he came back on board, he developed a strategic plan and planned key investments in technology and process improvements. The result, he said, is that during his tenure from 2009 through 2011, net income has increased, delinquent accounts have decreased, and customer complaints have decreased.

Wicks said that full implementation of the Cogsdale software program resulted in "almost a million dollars in additional revenue from delinquent accounts and staying current on our billing."

In reviewing net income from 2008 to 2011, Wicks reported that the department was in the red to the tune of $5.38 million in 2008, $2.424 million in 2009, and $1.355 million in 2010. In 2011 RWR cleared $61,000 in net revenue he said.

The department still must deal with non-revenue water loss and declining net assets, Wicks said, but he believes RWR is on the right course.

"The system we put in place is working," he told the commissioners. "We still have to address the net assets ... but we certainly have the ship turned around and for the first time we have been able to pay all our expenses and have a little in the black."

Nonetheless, Wicks remains at odds with the Water and Sewerage Authority and said in an earlier interview he believes the BOC's vote not to extend his contract and the recommendation by the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority that his contract not be renewed are politically motivated. Wicks has said he believes one member of the Authority -- Garvin Haynes -- is the instigator for the Authority's and the BOC's actions.

Wicks also previously said that he believes the root cause of the tension between RWR and the Authority is that Authority members do not fully understand their roles as they relate to the Board of Commissioners and RWR. Wicks said he reports directly to the BOC chairman and not the BOC. Elaine Nash, chairwoman of the Authority, has said that the Authority owns all the assets and debt of the water system and Authority members maintain it should have fiduciary oversight in order to protect bond holders and ratepayers.

Wicks did not attend a June meeting of the Water and Sewerage Authority, apparently over a dispute about an item he wanted to place on the agenda. The Authority voted at that meeting to recommend to the BOC that Wicks' contract not be renewed.

The next day, Nash and Authority member Phyllis Turner met with Oden and his chief of staff in an effort to ease the dissension between the RWR and the Authority.

While the meeting was described by the county as "positive overall," the BOC subsequently moved forward on a resolution not to extend Wicks' contract.