Recently I attended two meetings. One was at City Hall on June 25 concerning Fairhope’s finances. The other was at the Civic Center on June 27 concerning growth and zoning issues. Both, I am sorry to say, are glaring indictments of the sad state …
Recently I attended two meetings. One was at City Hall on June 25 concerning Fairhope’s finances. The other was at the Civic Center on June 27 concerning growth and zoning issues. Both, I am sorry to say, are glaring indictments of the sad state of our leadership, especially at the mayoral level, in Fairhope.
At the finance meeting, it was a good citizen, Dick Kwapil, who, on his own, had prepared a 26-page report on Fairhope’s finances that reached some alarming conclusions. One was that the utility rates of the typical Fairhope household have risen a staggering 27-plus percent over the last three years, with a scheduled increase of over 10 percent this year alone! This is far greater than the Consumer Price Index has increased.
These present increases are due to Mayor Nix’s disastrous defiance of the state’s constitutional mandate against city-owned utilities expanding beyond their municipal boundaries, when in the early ‘90s he expanded into territory claimed by Rivera Utilities (Rock Creek) and Baldwin County EMC (Quail Creek). Both utilities quite reasonably filed suit, and Fairhope defiantly entered into protracted and unsuccessful litigation that cost the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. To this day, the once-profitable electric utility shows a net loss of over 2 percent. What Mayor Kant has done to earn the $70,000 salary of his second job as head of Fairhope’s utilities is to jack up your water, sewer, garbage, gas and electric fees to cover these and other debacles at your expense.
But it’s getting harder to cover these problems and show a positive, happy picture, as exhibited in the last quarter, when several invoices remained unpaid (one for nearly 90 days). Because of both past and present legal problems resulting from even more irresponsible actions, the city is involved in several lawsuits that, according to two council members, average $30-$70,000 a month in legal fees — at your expense.
Another major problem is a mumbo-jumbo financial system that continues to keep things such as debt of approximately $34 million ($18 million for utilities and $16 million for the city), legal fee payments (how much and to whom), and God knows what else hidden from not just the people but the City Council itself. The response from the mayor’s office is always the same: “We hide nothing.” But the truth is that they manipulate both the figures and information, hoping the council will continue to remain mute and, aside from a few heroic-sounding remarks, do nothing!
The council must demand and backup these demands for transparency immediately or lose what little credibility they still have. They can and should relieve the mayor of his “second job” as Superintendent of Utilities for mismanagement and hire someone who answers to them (and us) with full disclosure and clear transparency.
Even though a new revenue stream has been proposed (in the form of a 2 percent sales tax), don’t you think we should clear up the murky mess we’re in and fully understand the depth before bailing out one disastrous policy after another without changing out some of the people involved?
I believe Fairhope voters, like most Americans, would support those who demonstrate character and courage on the City Council as we head into elections next year.