December 11, 2023

LETTER: Support the Water Board

Dave Neas - Osceola

To the Editor and Readers of the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune:

The voters of Osceola should reject the public measure that would eliminate the Osceola Waterworks Board. It was my privilege to serve on that board several years ago, a service I had to end because I took a job out of town that made it impossible for me to continue. The Waterworks Board is a citizen board, responsible to the people through the appointment process, as members are appointed by the mayor subject to council approval. Their regular, transparent meetings provide an opportunity for citizen-customers to bring concerns and issues to the board for resolution.

During my time on the board, nearly every meeting involved a problem arising from the old water infrastructure of the city or a private, often shared line, that citizens had installed in the past to secure water service. Sometimes those who came to us were facing catastrophic costs as the result of the failure of a private line, and in some cases the decisions of a prior owner of their property had failed to connect to the public system or had made short-term decisions in the distant past that was creating an expensive crisis years later. The Board was able to work out terms with citizen/customers that allowed the water to keep flowing without bankrupting the customer.

The job of managing and operating a water system is delegated to this board for a good reason: it takes time and a familiarity with the system that takes time and dedication. The City Administration and Council has enough to do without adding the burdens of running the water utility. During my time on the Board, we frequently had a Council Member or Administrator come to us with questions. Often our employees could answer the questions, but the volunteer board was also available to work out issues the council and their constituents had with the utility. Moving the responsibility of the Water Utility to the Council and city administration makes no sense. That responsibility has been delegated to the Waterworks Board for years, and that arrangement is working well.