Not satisfied with water ratesDear Editor,

Shirlee Yassney - Russellville

I began my political career by speaking out for the citizens of Russellville in what you and other media, and also the state authorities, called a “Water Crisis.” I was elected Mayor of Russellville in 1998 and re-elected four years later because of my willingness to identify the problems with our water supply in Russellville and to work hard to find solutions that gave us safe drinking water. This was not an easy task, and like other worthwhile projects the City Council and I worked on during that time, it was and is an ongoing task. Unfortunately, one of the first steps in cleaning up our water supply was to find the money to do it. The state provided much needed grant money, but we also had to raise our water rates to cover years of past neglect.

I am certainly not seeking public office at this time of my life, but I am once again speaking out for the citizens of Russellville. Our family, like many others, struggle to understand why almost 20 years after the “water crisis” and the expenses of correcting it, we continue to have such terribly high water bills. A couple of months ago, after so many people complaining to me about this issue, I asked to see the city’s financial statements to see if I could find anything that could be done to help decrease our water/sewer bills. What I found was AMAZING! I found the city has a surplus of a quarter million dollars on their P&L (Profit/Loss) statement and several million in the bank with no FDIC! I noted several areas that were questionable, visited the Mayor to ask for answers, and gave him suggestions. I left feeling confident that he would do as he promised and look into the matter to find a fair solution for the citizens of Russellville.

After hearing nothing from the Mayor’s office for a month, I’ve received a letter from the city attorney explaining their position.

Just before I left office in 2006, we had a water rate study done. (By the way, this apparently was the last study done.) The study suggested a 5.7% increase. I presented this to the Council and asked for a vote. Councilman Zick made a motion to increase water rates by 55%. Yes, that’s 55%, and as I gaped, the motion passed. Before I could do anything to keep it from becoming law, my term was up. When newly elected Mayor Zick took office after that, I went to a City Council meeting, once again as a citizen of Russellville, to protest this outrageously unnecessary rate increase. I was told by Mayor Zick to sit down and shut up. So I did… until now. Too many people have asked me to speak out for them.

Even though our Mayor and City Council have done nothing wrong or illegal, they do have the power to do the RIGHT thing. They have collected a huge surplus of funds from us

over the last ten years, a quarter of a million dollars! The Mayor calls this their “rainy day fund.” Well, we citizens of Russellville think we’ve been rained on long enough! They have the power to decrease all our water bills, including the little old lady who contacted me, who “takes a spit bath every day to keep from using too much water and uses the dirty water to water her flowers.”(her words)

These are suggestions I have for the Russellville City Council in regard to our current “Water Crisis:”

Commission a new water rate study. This is essential to bringing the rates where they need to be. The Russellville City Council should not be comfortable with a surplus of a quarter million dollars on their P&L (Profit/Loss) statement and several million in the bank with no FDIC!

Address the water you are losing (probably from the old water reservoir). 40-45% of all water we buy from Logan/Todd water is going into the ground… zip… gone. $40-50 thousand a month… over half million a year! That would buy a couple of NEW reservoirs????

Create a watchdog group for all our public utilities, something like a “Citizens Advisory Board for Public Utilities,” so this will not happen again.

This a serious matter and it seems some accountability needs to be in place. Coming from a large family, I know you love all of them and they upset you now and then, but you forgive and keep loving them. That’s how I feel about

everyone I know in Russellville, including the Mayor and City Council Members. I love and pray for you and your families, but I love and support the water/sewer rate payers in this city, also. We are praying you will do the RIGHT thing.

Shirlee Yassney


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