I appreciate you bringing some of the woes of our Village of Powhatan to light. On behalf of our citizens and the Village aldermen, as the current mayor, I also appreciate this opportunity to respond.
I first think it’s important to note that our Village unanimously approved a “No Contest” response to the suit by the Attorney General and Legislative Auditor to help expedite the state’s assistance in appointing a Fiscal Administrator, because everyone in our Village, our friends in the City of Natchitoches and the State Legislative Auditor’s office and Attorney General’s office understand that our money problems (mostly related to our antiquated water and sewer systems) did not blow up overnight.
Not to place blame on prior administrations, but rather to show how long-standing these issues have been, Mayors Johnnie B. Taylor (first elected in 1996) and Margie Davenport through 2008 and Mrs. Taylor again from 2008 to my election in 2020, stressed to me, their Aldermen and the auditors and state oversight boards for decades that our aging infrastructure was broken and we needed help.
If you care to visit the La. Digital Library Archives, an interview with former Mayor Davenport speaks about our seeking grants for water, sewer, public safety–you name it—as far back as 25-30 years ago. The mayor is quoted as saying “…everything was just broke down when I walked in the door…sewer pumps gone out…drinking water brown…” and more depressing things like that.
And while some federal grants were successful in updating and repairing a pump or tank here or there, our lines, meters and overall systems remain very aged and stressed. Grants can’t pay all the bills forever though and until recently when we raised the rates on our water bills, everything was getting worse by the day.
I will say this. Since we raised rates last spring and summer, we have been able to get 80-90 percent of our past due bills caught up, other than penalties imposed by the state and cost of past audits that are detailed in your piece. My point is this. We are desperately trying to catch up to the 21st century but continue to have an aging infrastructure and decreasing population.
We will welcome the Fiscal Administrator effective Dec. 1, but in that the Attorney General wants the Village to pay “all costs and expenses of the suit and the Administrator.” We can’t afford much more help like that.
How long can our citizens and elected officials rob Peter to pay Paul?
We could all serve without pay through the end of our terms and not catch up a bit. Any ideas that you or your readers can share with us are more than welcomed and thank you again for shining a light on the issues we face here in Powhatan.
Hardrick Rivers, Mayor