The city of Mobile and Mobile Area Water & Sewer System have not always seen eye to eye, but recently the two sides sat down to what they hope will be the first of many positive meetings.
The City Council and MAWSS Board of Directors met Jan. 27 to introduce themselves, talk about the water system’s duties and address any immediate issues.
It might seem odd that two entities who were locked in a lawsuit until March 2012 would sit down together, but Water & Sewer System Director Charles Hyland explained how the meeting happened.
“About a month and a half ago, I spoke with (Mayor Sandy Stimpson) and we agreed this would be beneficial for both groups,” Hyland said. “This will hopefully be the beginning of several meetings. Also, we want this to open communications between the council and (MAWSS) board, so if there are questions, you can go to someone.”
The relationship between the city and MAWSS was not always as pleasant.
When MAWSS was working on a 2,400-foot resurfacing project on Houston Street near the Loop, the city claimed the project was destroying city-owned, sub-surface drainage infrastructure and ordered MAWSS to replace it. MAWSS said the damage was preexisting and claimed the city was attempting to burden utilities with the responsibility of maintaining its aging stormwater system.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Youngpeter ruled in favor of the city in March 2012.
There was no bad blood between the previous courtroom opponents on Jan. 27. The majority of the meeting dealt with introductions of staff and explanations of MAWSS facilities, but the councilors present were able to ask questions, which showed they were still concerned about MAWSS’s treatment of the streets.
Councilman Fred Richardson noted Fulton Road near Village at Midtown has been patched by MAWSS numerous times.
“The road is getting to be where it shouldn’t be just patched. It needs to be repaved,” he said.
City Engineer Nick Amberger said if the street is 10 percent or more “patch work” then MAWSS or the city is to repave the street.
MAWSS representatives said they would look into any streets that concerned the city and report back.
City Council President Gina Gregory said she was grateful for the two sides moving towards working together more.
“In the past, there have been some rocky roads between us, but I’m glad we can come together today and work together,” she said. “It’s like what Charles (Hyland) said. We want what is best for Mobile, which is made up of MAWSS customers and our constituents.”
Edited at 11:19 a.m. Jan. 28 for clarity and grammar.