Sunday, February 19, 2023

Water Manager Hints at Court Fight over Water Billing

Judge Wingate drops bombshell on "Ecodes"

Jackson Water Manager Ted Henifin told U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate that Jackson's water system is still "tenuous" although progress has been made in stabilizing the system.   The Receiver of Jackson's water system also hinted he might sue to block any proposed legislation that bar him from creating a water billing system based on property values. 

Judge Wingate appointed Mr. Henifin to manage Jackson's water system after removing it from the city's control last year.  Jackson is under a consent decree with the EPA and Justice Department.  The Receiver  provides periodic updates to the Court on the water system. 

Mr. Henifin said Jackson's water treatment plants were the "sources of many problems."  He said he was signing a contract Friday with Jacobs Engineering to manage the water treatment plant for six months on a cost-plus basis.*  The Receiver told the Court the six-month term will give both sides time to see what it "takes and costs to operate the plants."  He expected to enter into a 5-year contract with Jacobs at the end of August.  The short-term contract limits the company's risk.  Mr. Henifin said the Jacobs' books will be checked every month.  

Jacobs hired 22 former city employees.  Three chose not to work for the company while two failed background checks.  The company also hired several employees from the Health Department.  He lauded Jacobs for hiring local workers.  

Judge Wingate asked what would happen to the employees when the five-year contract expired.  Mr. Henifin said Jacobs will "always have a need for such employees." He added he did not think there would be a "contract change as we rarely see it in these operational maintenance contracts." 

Mr. Henifin said Jacobs Engineering will be the operator of record for the water treatment plants.  He said the company is already working on several projects.  None of the chemical feed systems are computer controlled.  He said design work to place them under computer control is taking place, calling the project a "major step."   It will be "mid-year" before the design work is completed.  The sludge handling will be replaced as well.  

"Still tenuous, much better shape," is how the Receiver described Jackson's water system.  Pressure balance has improved and the storage tanks are more full than they have been in years.  The pressure is up at the end of the system where it had not been since last summer.  

A hydraulic model is complete but not yet calibrated.  Mr. Henifin is working with a national firm to calibrate the model. Stantec will coordinate the work. 

The Receiver said the system should be able to handle line breaks without crashing.  "Every time we have a line break, parts of the city go down.  That does not happen in every system."  However, progress is taking place.  He said two twenty-inch pipes broke recently.  Employees responded within a few hours and the system was fine. "We've instituted better rapid response and procedures to handling line breaks," said the Receiver. 

To say leaks have bedeviled Mr. Henifin and his predecessors is an understatement.  He hired IMS Engineers to manage a "find and fix" program.  IMS will "go over every city street and identify leaks."  IMS will hire local contractors to fix the leaks.  

Water losses are huge.  The Receiver said "we are still dealing with losing 30 million gallons per day.  He hired a national firm to conduct acoustic testing of the pipes to find the larger leaks.  The company will deploy internal acoustic devices within the pipes to find leaks.  He said the contract should be between five and six million dollars.  

Fixing the leaks means Jackson could close the Fewell plant and possible half of the O.B. Curtis plant. Jackson residents use an average of 300 gallons per day.  Mr. Henefin said such use is "outrageous as the national average is 88 gallons per day."  He said the Jackson water system should be only using 15-16 million gallons per day.  "We should be using around 100 gallons per day," he said. 

The water loss does not affect revenue but impacts costs.  Stopping the leaks and bringing water usage down to the national average means Jackson would indeed need only half of one plant.  Jackson would save approximately $12 million per year.  "The savings are tremendous. We've got to find the water," he said.  

The Receiver said he wants to hold a series of community meetings over the next month to get feedback from the citizenry.  One issue he will discuss is who operates the water system.  Should it be the city, a city-created authority, a state-created authority, or another model.  He said he preferred politicians did not attend the meetings as he did not want citizens intimidated. (KF: Make no mistake, the politicians will send their spies and goons to see who shows up and who speaks as well as their stooges to speak up.)

Judge Wingate asked Mr. Henifin if he considered sending out a questionnaire to citizens.  Mr. Henefin said he had not but would do so. (KF: Ted, send out the questionnaire. It's goon-free.).  

Mr. Henifin is an advocate of basing water bills on property values instead of water usage. The property value would not be based on tax assessments but on an imputed value.  He said "metering has failed for ten years."  He said he wanted feedback at the community meetings on whether citizens wanted a billing system based on consumption or property values.   He admitted under questioning to Judge Wingate that Jackson will be the first city nationwide to adopt a property-value-based billing system. 

"We would be the first utility to try a property-based model.  It's going to be a battle and we may need your help," said Mr. Henifin.  

The Receiver added there were 6,500 improved properties in the Tax Assessor's database that do not have water accounts.  Each one has to be checked to see if it needs a water account.  It was at this point that Judge Wingate brought up the subject of Ecodes. JJ reported Friday: 

 He said it was created to help customers.  If the city is responsible for the "non-delivery of water, something is wrong with city pipes, for example,", the customer is not required to make payments until the city corrects the problems.  Judge Wingate said the program had a great beginning as such customers should not pay when the city is clearly at fault but then later on, more entities and homeowners were placed on Eplan over the years, which means regular bills were not submitted to such customers.  "In fact, over the years, Planners were not required to make any  water payments for years," said the judge.  Such favoritism continued so long, Judge Wingate said, "some people in fact, considered this forbearance on having to pay water bills was a right they had."  They had been off the water billing system for so long, they did not think they were required to pay any water bills. The Plan extended to certain homeowners and businesses and much revenue was lost, said Judge Wingate. 

However, Judge Wingate was not through explaining this sordid bit of history to the Receiver.  The judge said he asked "persons connected" to the Jackson water department how he could find out who was on Eplan so one could investigate whether they were legitimately on the Eplan.  Staff told him there was no computer model that identified the Planners so people just stayed on it. 

Judge Wingate concluded "So, I asked from time to time.  I didn't have a lawsuit to work with at the time.  I was given various reasons why Ecode was used.  It was abused because "other considerations were involved, it lasted quite a while, for years.  I want to know why the city couldn't hit a button and see who was on Eplan. 

Mr. Henifin said such a program might explain why 6,500 improved properties in Jackson do not have water accounts.  A dumbfounded Receiver said this was the first time he heard of the program but promised to investigate.  

One can only imagine what the half a dozen or so EPA and Justice Department Zoomies thought after getting this little taste of Jackson corruption.  

The matter of sewer billing arose near the end of the discussion.  Mr. Henifin said he has authority over water and sewer billing although he has nothing to do with sewer service.  The incoming federal aid is designated for water service, not sewer service.  He wants to combine the two and use local revenue for repairing the sewer system and the federal funds for the water system.  

Judge Wingate asked for a tour of the water plants.  The Receiver said he could arrange such a tour as he concluded his report.  

City Attorney Tori Martin took her turn before Judge Wingate.  She said Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba agrees with Mr. Henifin's proposal to hold community meetings.  Judge Wingate asked her if the city anticipates rates increasing or decreasing  under a new rate structure.  Ms. Martin said it will go down for some customers and up for others.  She said the property-based billing will rely upon either square footage or the actual value of the house.  

Judge Wingate briefly quizzed her about sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).  She said there were 256 throughout the city.  

Ms. Martin took it upon herself to bring up the matter of the Ecodes.  She said Ecodes were only used for buildings and institutions where it is "medically necessary to continue water service."  She blamed the rest of the revenue problems on the Siemens debacle and lost bills.  Judge Wingate took advantage of her remarks to expound some more on Ecodes: 

Ms. Martin, the Code matter goes way beyond that, it goes way beyond making sure water was not cut off at these various places. This Ecode matter goes back through various administrations.  This determination as to who was going to receive an Ecode has other aspects to it.  We can discuss it at another time.  You are not fully familiar with it.  Unfortunately, people were placed on it for favors.  This whole matter with the Ecode has a long history. It has gone through several administrations who wanted to put certain people and businesses on Ecodes for not the proper purposes.   

At some point, we can talk bout it.  I can tell you I am very familiar with it.  When I found out about it, I was incensed. Every time I made that inquiry, I was told there was no computer that could spit out Ecodes.

Judge Wingate thanked the parties for a "great update." "It seems to me you managed to make some real headway."

* Mr. Henifin explained Cost-plus is the contract covers the basic cost.  Jacobs has to justify it needs more money than what is originally proposed.  The Receiver said he negotiated the labor rates but di not know how many hours of labor would be needed.  He will have to open the books when material are ordered.  10% markup is allowed although chemicals are limited to a 2.5% markup as they are the biggest cost of operation.  


Anonymous said...

Judges enforce the laws, and legislatures make the laws. Teddy should find another tree to climb.

Anonymous said...

"Hold community meetings"

Tells me all I need to know about ol' Ted.

Anonymous said...

The Receiver of Jackson's water system also hinted he might sue to block any proposed legislation that bar him from creating a water billing system based on property values.

Bring it Ted. You'll lose.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Gumflapper agrees with more community meetings? ROFLMAO

Anonymous said...

So the plan is to hold community meetings in the black areas of Jackson and ask the attendees if they think the white folks at the Jackson Country Club should pay a much larger and disproportionate bill every month. Henifin needs to do that because he is unsure what their answer will be. He’s a genius.

Anonymous said...

The fact that a firm with close ties to the Mayor was selected that is also fighting a family who daughter was killed by NEGLIGENT OVERSIGHT and fighting a monetary payout speaks volumes of work and legal matters the COJ will also face. If Chockwe uses only race as a basis and Ted listens; this is only the beginning when hiring alone. Per Federal Law, race alone CANNOT be the sole basis for hiring Engineering firms, contract workers, etc. Prayers for discernment for Judges, & all of the workers and citizens in the future as with water, sewer and trash are still volatile issue now. Thanks for all of the hard work thus far!

Anonymous said...

They want to charge water customers according to their assessed property value instead of how much water they actually use. This was their solution to having no competence to operate a legitimate billing system, but now to find they have been SECRETLY rewarding certain privileged customers with a free water code is outrageous.

Anonymous said...

The carpetbagger goes to court-

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There is a very easy and simple compromise solution to the billing problem.

First, there are two things that have to be solved immediately:

#1 - All Jackson residents have to begin paying a monthly water/sewer/garbage bill.
#2 - All of these systems need immediate, reliable revenue coming in, now.

So, use Henifin's proposed billing method immediately. Over the course of Henifin's tenure, he has to get a metered billing system up and running before the system can be handed back to local control. That gives him years to fix the billing system.

Everyone will be happy and solves all of the problems of billing in a reasonable manner.

Anonymous said...

May be 5:00, but the city council will never join forces with those wanting to fight Henifen. ?As a unit, they are weak, gutless, leaderless and totally disappointing. This billing system proposed is so wrong. A huge apartment complex or laundromat will have the same water/sewer bill as a shoe store with one toilet and a water fountain.
The city council are like wooden Indians and have a lost gaze forward with no leadership or fortitude.

Anonymous said...

Barney Fife would have called this Ted guy an interloper.

Anonymous said...

The water system is losing 30 million gallons per day, but should only be using 15-16 million gallons per day.

6,500 accounts that get free water.

Massive amounts of sewage dumped into the Pearl River.

Environmental racism my ass. It's absolute incompetence, and the absolute failure to apply any sort of organization and communication within the "management" of the municipality.

Multiple people should be put on trial for the failure that is Jackson. It'll never happen.

Anonymous said...

So those with higher property values would also be subsidizing the increased costs caused leaks and ecodes?

Ask Puerto Rico how “free” electricity worked out.

Anonymous said...

While you are suing the water payment system, why not also sue General U. S, Grant for burning the city down during the civil was.

Anonymous said...

@6:38 AM - Day drinking already?

Anonymous said...

Henefin would rather spend money on legal fees than spend money fixing the meter and billing system.

This is typical government. There are many qualified people in Mississippi that are doing it well and doing it right every day. None of those would ever be contacted by Jackson about employment. But we would rather go get an outsider, overpay him, then stand amazed (looking at you Wyatt Emmerich) as he comes up with bone headed ideas to AVOID fixing the actual problem.

The problem can be fixed. It doesn't take bright ideas. It takes work, effort, diligence, and attention to detail. It's done every day all throughout the US in successful places. But Henefin would rather hire IMS to do stuff (hahahaha).

Anonymous said...

Henefin is Chowke's ringer. Did anyone take note that Chowke didn't oppose nor comment on Henefin's selection as water czar?

He's from the People's Republic of Mass.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Jackson are using an average of 300 gall0ns per day vs the national average of 88 gallons per day. And Henifin thinks that is going to get better with a flat fee monthly price ? No, it will get worse. If a person's cost is capped at a set amount per month, they will have no fear or concern of excess usage, and the waste will continue and possibly even worsen. Many people will not care if they use 200 gallons per day more than they should when it doesn't cost them any more.

And Henifin admits that Jackson would be the first and only city nationwide to use a property-value-based billing system ? If that's such a good way to charge for water, why is there not a single other city in the country billing that way ?

He claims that a property-value-based billing system is needed because the Jackson meter-based billing system hasn't worked for 10 years. That doesn't mean that a water-based billing system can't or doesn't work. Again, every single other city in the entire country has a meter-based billing system and makes it work. Then why can't Jackson? That admission seems to only acknowledge and confirm Jackson's incompetence in running a billing system, not that such a system doesn't work. No, Ted, don't try installing a billing system that not a single other city in the country has adopted or used. Stick with what works in every other city, the meter-based system. The reason Jackson's meter-based system doesn't work is because it got duped by Siemens into using an untested system that didn't work in the end, and then Jackson has done little to install a new system that does work. After years of dragging its feet, it's finally doing that now, so finish the job and get the meters back up and running.

8:10, you suggested: "So, use Henifin's proposed billing method immediately. Over the course of Henifin's tenure, he has to get a metered billing system up and running before the system can be handed back to local control. That gives him years to fix the billing system."
The problem with that statement, 8:01, is that Henifin doesn't have to get a meter-based system up and running before the system can be handed back to local control. Once a property-value-based system is implemented, then Henifin will not switch it back to a meter based system.

Fixing Jackson's water system doesn't mean radical actions need to be taken. Just do what has worked for every other city in the country for over a hundred years. Fix the water plants, fix the pipes, and get the meters running, bills sent out, and bills paid. It works everywhere else and can work here too. In fact,it did work here until the City quit maintaining the system and let it fall into such disrepair. You're here to fix the water system, Ted, not be a social justice warrior.

Krusatyr said...

Stupid meter system installer/managers are not a problem for Marxists, they are an opportunity, especially when $600M to $800M is available to empower a tyrannical takeover.

Just spend $100M of it to sue the state.

Anonymous said...

Yes 8.06 my first thoughts. Ted has been jacksonalized instead of repairing something lets sue and make sure the lawyers get some money.

Anonymous said...

I’m not exactly sure who hired him, whether it was the city or the state. Whoever hired him made a huge mistake, as I think we will see in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Henifin should fix the damn water and billing system and stay the hell out of politics if he truly wishes to permanently fix the water system for Jacksonians. There is no evidence that shows Jackson leaders could manage a lemonade stand, let alone a shiny new water system. Just look at all of those shiny new streets we have that are full of massive potholes already and drainage holes packed full of leaf and pine needle debris. This City has no maintenance plan for its "assets."

Anonymous said...

The lengths "some" people will go to avoid accountability and doing the proper thing is unbelievable. They are either scared of something or lack the ability or belly for a little hard work.

Anonymous said...

"Jackson residents use an average of 300 gallons per day. Mr. Henefin said such use is 'outrageous as the national average is 88 gallons per day.'"

The city doesn't know how many gallons per day the average resident uses, which is one of the problems with billing. I think a more accurate statement is that the water system wastes an average of about 212 unaccounted-for gallons per day for each residential hookup due to leaks and ecodes.

If the proposed billing plan pays for all of that waste anyway, there would be no incentive to fix it and cut out the waste.

Anonymous said...

Some excellent comments.

Ted: "Fixing the leaks means Jackson could close the Fewell plant and possible half of the O.B. Curtis plant." "Stopping the leaks and bringing water usage down to the national average means Jackson would indeed need only half of one plant." Anyone want to go to one plant? I don't. If everything gets fixed, and fixed by HONEST people, then let it run 1 year. After that, maybe.

Judge Wingate asked Mr. Henifin if he considered sending out a questionnaire to citizens. Well there's a brilliant idea! You mean actually speak to anyone outside of the community meetings that are set up in specific areas with specific attendees? Thanks, Judge.

Ted: "He said he wanted feedback at the community meetings on whether citizens wanted a billing system based on consumption or property values." I believe another comment addressed this one. good grief.

Judge: This determination as to who was going to receive an Ecode has other aspects to it. We can discuss it at another time. You are not fully familiar with it. Unfortunately, people were placed on it for favors. This whole matter with the Ecode has a long history. It has gone through several administrations who wanted to put certain people and businesses on Ecodes for not the proper purposes." Thanks again, Judge.

Anybody else had this cross their mind: Ted already knew about the Ecodes and didn't want to disturb it (staying away from billing, dont need meters, dont look at meter usage, find another way to bill, etc.).

Anonymous said...

940 Nailed it. Lets stay focused Ted. Fix the water system, fix the billing system. We got enough nickel politicians running around.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Henifin-Proponet of socialism. Make the property owners with nicer properties pay for the ones with lower valued properties. They are creating a system that will cause more flight from Jackson. And he admits Jackson would be the first city in the nation to have such a system. Is anyone asking why that is?? Its because it is a stupid idea at the highest level.

Anonymous said...

4:51 You are right if no other city in the US has this program why in the heck would you try it in one of the poorest states?

Anonymous said...

847 AM - you are on point in most every single way.

You miss one point to add to your reasoning - Henefin is saying that Jacksons system doesn't work, and hasn't worked, and therefore he wants to set up his (and his association's, the Water Alliance's) social 'equity' system.

The basic fact is, Jackson's water billing system doesn't work because Jackson has not wanted it to work. And more importantly today - Henefin absolutely doesn't want it to work. He WANTS to implement the tax based system - something he and his ilk have been wanting to get cities to buy into for years. All the others have refused -- they are, when you think about it, democratic societies and not those that are ruled by czars such as Henefin has been denoted here.

He has the ability to fix the system - contract with a company that does this crap; give them the authority to fire the folks at the billing department, just as he has given Jacobs the abillity to keep or fire folks at the treatment plants; just as he plans to do with the folks responsible for repairing water ruptures throughout the city.

Henefin, fix the billing system rather than taking the lazy way out that allows you to do what nobody else has accepted. True, its not lazy for you, but your damned excuse is - that Jackson can't manage a useage based billing system. Truth be know, it does for all the other utilities serving Jackson residents - but those systems have not been 'managed' by Jackson's current misnomered 'leadership'.

Anonymous said...

Any way you do the math, according to the data in this new WLBT report, E-code abuse has increased substantially under Antard Lumumba.

Anonymous said...

Any real estate attorneys out there? I need a little help selling the four square feet in my front yard where my water meter is to a new LLC I'm setting up. It's a small plot with no improvements, so the property value is going to be pretty low, but they won't need much of their water allotment so they may just give me any extra.

Anonymous said...

Ted: "...we admit we are too dumb to install and manage a basic billing system (the kind that every other city has successfully done) so instead, we are going to use a very complicated billing system that no other city has ever attempted, but hey...fingers crossed, gang!"

Jackson leaders: "That sir, is pure genius!"

Anonymous said...

@12:24 - even better idea is to send the questionnaire only to those who are current on their water accounts or payment plan, or at least are receiving a bill... no sense in wasting time getting input from the e-planners who might show up to the community meetings to support robinhood billing but probably won't pay a bill even if it's affordable and based on their property values.

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