Under the threat of a state take-over, the town of Melville has come up with a plan to deal with its dire fiscal situation.
In April, the state’s Fiscal Review Committee met to talk about the financial problems the town has, and to consider placing the town under fiscal administration. The committee gave the administration of the town 45 days to come up with a solid plan to address the problems.
At the meeting, Bradley Cryer, Director of Local Government Audit Services for the Legislative Auditor, told the committee that the town currently has about $20,000 in the bank, but owes $200,000 in bills. The majority of those bills, about $150,000, are overdue by more than 60 days, Cryer said. The town also has no sinking fund as required by the terms of its utility bonds, Cryer said.
Also discussed were the town’s problems with its water system, which include no meters, no tracking on who pays and who doesn’t and a "deplorable" well.
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"We’re trying to get the task force to help us fix the small well as well as fixing a new well and putting new water lines in as well as putting in the meters," says Mayor Erana Mayes. "Thats the biggest part is that everyone will have to have the meter and pay what they actually use."
Mayes says the lack of water meters and the need for a new well are the main source of the money issues.
"We need a new well right now we have one well and it’s very old. It’s over 50 years old and we’re trying to keep that constantly working," she said.
Right now, residents are charged a flat rate for their water. In Mayes’ plan, they would use money from a Governor’s Task Force to pay for meters, which means the town will have an accurate charge for the water being used. However, those meters will mean residents may be paying more than the flat rate, based on their usage. The flat rate has been in place as long as Mayes can remember.
"Utilities is our main source of income and to have everyone pay their bills and caught up then we’re able to pay bills that we owe," the mayor said.
A new $45 late fee on water payments also is included in her plan.
The mayor, who has been in office for three years, says when she was given notice that Melville was on the verge of a state take-over, no time could be wasted in getting these long-term issues taken care of.
"I am opposed to them taking over because if they were to take over. Then our residents would lose out and not have any type of say so as far as when it comes to bills or anything they would like to see or done in the town," she said.
Earlier this year the committee has placed Jeanerette under fiscal administration; when that happens the mayor and council are removed from decision-making positions by a judge and an appointed person comes in to run the town’s finances and make all decisions.
Mayes’ plan, which you can read for yourself below, lists the actions she’s already taken, and brief statements about what she plans to do.