“It’s not pleasant owning the Moody sewer system right now, but we do,” Lee said. “We all agreed to buy it; we all agreed to form a GUS. We’ve got to stand behind the GUS and let them make the tough decisions to move forward with it.”
Published reports over the weekend linked Alabama Utility Services, the company hired by the GUS Board to run Moody’s system, to Bill Blount, a Montgomery investment banker recently sentenced to federal prison stemming from a bribery conviction in Jefferson County.
Speaking in his office prior to the Council meeting, Lee — who is also chairman of the GUS — said the GUS is currently handling the system itself, in the person of city project manager Dave Treadwell and a small staff.
“Every nickel that is sent to City Hall, Dave Treadwell is the guy over every bit of that,” Lee said. “If there’s a payment gets made, Dave Treadwell handles that. The bonds are the first things that are paid, and then we’re paying on the arrears of the bond payments that were not paid. … We are paying that back down.
“The city of Moody’s being paid, the GUS is being paid and the balance of it is being sent back out to run the plant.”
The GUS Board has taken multiple actions in recent months: in December 2009, the GUS voted to raise rates for users; in March, the board voted to authorize Lee and attorney Bill Weathington to “take any action that might be necessary on behalf of the GUS and the sewer system.” Board member Joe Kelly said Tuesday that action was “to protect the GUS and its customers.”
“As far as the user is concerned, when we established the rate change last December, it was intended to be permanent,” he said. “I think if the GUS is going to adjust those rates, it would be adjust them downward. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but we will be reviewing to see if we can adjust those rates downward.
“I don’t anticipate any major concerns on the part of the user.”
AUS’ contracts extend outside the city of Moody, as well. Argo’s contract with AUS expired in April; the City Council has yet to approve a contract with the Moody GUS due to what mayor Paul Jennings called “questions I couldn’t answer.”
“I’m concerned,” he said. “For our town to grow, we need the sewer. I’m just afraid that Mr. Blount and I don’t know who all his cronies are, but I don’t think they’re good for business for my town.
“I’m sitting over here in this new city hall, having to adjust for some over-spending, and we need the growth. But can we afford to pay sewer bills, exorbitant sewer bills because of mismanagement, by Mr. Blount or whoever?”
Jennings and councilman Herschel Phillips attended the March meeting of the GUS, where they learned that Argo has a non-voting seat on the board as part of its contract. On Tuesday, Jennings said he trusts the people in charge in Moody.
“I got confidence in Mayor Lee and Mr. Treadwell,” he said. “I got confidence that what they do is the best thing for us all.”
On Monday, Lee said that the GUS is currently planning a meeting for next week, and he hopes to answer all the questions at that meeting.
“All I can tell you is that Moody feels like that buying that sewer was the best thing for the city of Moody, and that’s why we bought it,” he said. “Did we know who we were dealing with when we did it? No, we did not. We found all that out later.
“It’s a shame that it’s come to this, but the city of Moody really has nothing to do with it, other than, we appointed the GUS Board, we approved for the GUS Board to buy the sewer. … We felt real good about that when we went into it, that we had a good contract, we had a good company. So I’m asking the Council: give the GUS Board the opportunity to address these issues, and let’s don’t make it bigger than what (the media is) trying to make it.”