RWR, Authority working to resolve conflict

CONYERS — Representatives of Rockdale Water Resources and the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority met with county officials Friday to begin working out their differences.

Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden met with county Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon, Water and Sewerage Authority Chairman Elaine Nash, and Authority member Phyllis Turner in an effort to ease the dissension between RWR and the Authority.

Information released by the county indicated that the meeting was “positive overall,” and that progress was made toward understanding the differing viewpoints of the two entities.

Oden pointed out that the meeting was scheduled two weeks ago and was not tied to events that occurred at Thursday’s meeting of the Authority, where the friction between the Authority and RWR was evident.

The two entities are at odds over the responsibilities of each. As the operations arm of the water department, RWR answers to the Board of Commissioners. Nash said the Authority owns all the assets and debt of the water system and its members maintain it should have fiduciary oversight in order to protect bond holders and ratepayers.

At Thursday’s Authority meeting, the board voted to recommend to the BOC that Wicks’ contract not be renewed at the end of the year. That action was followed by RWR Deputy Director Terrell Gibbs asking that Authority member Garvin Haynes be removed based on grievances he has filed against Haynes.

Wicks, who decided to miss Thursday’s meeting due to an item that he wanted on the agenda that was not included in the meeting, said in his statement that he had wanted to inform the Authority and the public that “RWR won its claim against PoyntSource Solutions for unpaid water bills totaling $92,000. Also, as a separate part of the settlement agreement PoyntSource Solutions agreed to and paid a six-year outstanding note for a backflow preventer to RWR.”

According to Wicks, the past due payment and the settlement totaled more than $103,000.

Nash said Thursday she had told Wicks that would not be included in the already lengthy agenda.

In comments Thursday, representatives from each entity expressed optimism that their differences could be settled.

Nash said she was not sure how a resolution would be reached between the Authority and RWR, but she suspected there would be a memorandum of understanding developed that both could accept.

Wicks said in a prepared statement issued late Thursday that he believes the root cause of the misunderstanding 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.

“In many counties across the nation water authorities have the authority to manage the full operations of the Water Resources operations,” Wicks wrote. “But within Rockdale County, this authority was granted to the BOC and RWR. Therefore, the key to resolving this issue is to clearly define the role of the Authority as it relates to the management of water and sewer utilities in Rockdale County.”

Authority member Bill Murrain took a step toward working out a resolution at Thursday’s meeting when he said he wanted to “plant a seed” for other members to consider holding a retreat in order to “take a hard look” at the Authority’s roles and responsibilities.

Board member Darrell Thomas also indicated he’d like to find common ground with RWR.

“We need to try to find a way to work harmoniously together,” he said, adding, “Communication has broken down and we are in a zone of dysfunction.”