By John Mullen
In 2012, the Park City Water Authority Board was confronted with a big decision.
“We at that time did not have a lot of financial reserves to respond to a system emergency,” Board Chairman Kenneth Day said. “At that time the decision would be, would we have a rate increase, or should we absolve ourselves and allow us to be taken over by Daphne Utilities.”
Day had just started his five-year term on the board when the choice had to be made. After public meetings, the three-member board voted to remain in business. Park City is likely the smallest water system in the county, with just over 400 customers. Its water is purchased from Daphne Utilities.
Day has notified the Baldwin County Commission he is stepping down from the board when his term expires on Jan. 19, but he’s proud of the accomplishments during his tenure, beginning with the decision to stay in business.
“With that in place, we had to have a significant rate increase in 2012 to get us on some better financial footing,” he said. “Since then we’ve been able to maintain that and get some reserves, so I feel like if something happens we can respond to it. I think that was also a significant change.”
A steady reserve wasn’t available when the 2012 matter of possibly disbanding the board was discussed, Day said.
“We dug ourselves out of the financial hole,” he said. “We were able to have financial audits. We just completed one and got sort of a clean bill of health. To me, that was kind of pleasing. Those are some of the major changes that have occurred since I’ve been on the board.”
With the reserve built up, Day said interruptions in service can be quickly handled, though lengthy service breaks have been few.
“We’ve been fairly stable,” he said. “Occasionally a break or a storm comes through; you get a break and you’ll have to be out for a short period of time. We’re so small there’s not a lot of redundancy in our system so if something goes out, it happens. I can remember only maybe twice during my tenure on the board that we had a short period of time like that.”
Other changes include adding a second part-time office assistant to improve customer service and formalizing operating rules for the system. Customers can now also pay by credit card.
“Every time that person would take off there was no one that was set up to fulfill the duties when that person was not there,” Day said. “We’ve hired a second part-time person that works three days a week. That allows the original person to take some time off. It allows us to put out better customer service.
“I found that we didn’t have a lot of our policies written in terms of how we handle various things. We made a concerted effort. If this is how we are going to operate, let’s get our policies in writing and have some accountability there. We’ve done that.”
The board was established in 1977 when Daphne Utilities put in a main line to what is now the Lake Forest area. Park City tapped into that line and formed its system. In the 1980s Park City voted for annexation into Daphne city limits but maintained its own water service.
“We are what you call a purchase system,” Day said. “We don’t have any treatment facilities ourselves. We purchase all of our water from Daphne Utilities. It’s essentially metered into our infrastructure pipes and onto the individual residential structures. It’s a total purchase system.”
Park City’s rate is $23.71 a month for the first 1,500 gallons and $7.25 per 1,000 gallons above that. It is a bit higher than Daphne Utilities’ rate of $13.29 a month for 1,000 gallons and $2.90 per 1,000 gallons after that.
“Our system is operating well and our water is of the same caliber as everyone else in Daphne because it comes from the same source,” Day said.
Other current board members are Napoleon McCovery and Lynnette Locke, who has only been on the board since October. She was appointed to replace Thomas Lee, who stepped down because of medical issues, Day said. Her term also expires on Jan. 19, but she has told the Baldwin County Commission she would serve another five years if appointed.
McCovery was appointed in February and his term will end in February 2023. At least one person — Tiffany Rencher — has expressed interest in being appointed to Day’s seat, he said, and the County Commission will consider her appointment.
(Photo |Fairhope Courier) The Park City Water Authority in Daphne serves just over 400 accounts.