PLAQUEMINE — The Iberville Parish Council unanimously abolished Waterworks District No. 2 on Tuesday, placing day-to-day water service operations for east Iberville residents under the jurisdiction of the parish Utility Department.
Council Chairman Matt Jewell said the parish will have to absorb the water district’s outstanding debt, now amounting to some $2.1 million. The water district, which serves more than 2,000 customers, has about $2 million in its cash accounts, he said.
The council was compelled to make Tuesday’s decision after reports of questionable financial practices by the water district’s former employees were listed in recent audit reports covering the 2011 fiscal year.
The list of grievances against the water district included unaccounted-for funds, approximately $80,000 in unpaid invoices and questionable payouts to former employees.
The state legislative auditor placed the water district on its noncompliance list in July, barring the district from receiving any additional federal or state funding due to audit findings.
The water district, created in 1960, was governed by an appointed seven-member board of commissioners.
Board member Russell Redditt accused the council of a conspiracy during the public hearing before Tuesday night’s vote.
The board should have input into what happens to the water district, Redditt said.
“It might have been mismanaged with some things we didn’t know anything about, but look at all the revenues that’s going to be coming into this district now,” Redditt said. “We should have a say-so with what happens to it.”
Before voting Tuesday night, council members thanked Redditt, and the other commissioners present, for their service and said the council’s actions were not meant as a personal attack on the commissioners.
“It’s a necessary evil,” Jewell said.
Jewell said the parish will open an office, probably in St. Gabriel, where Waterworks District No. 2 customers will be able to pay their bills and submit work orders. “I think this is going to be great for them,” Jewell said after the meeting. “They’re going to get better service and we’ll be able to restore sound financial management and public confidence.”
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