Water shutoffs continue for city, despite suit

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Jackson city officials are continuing to shut off accounts for delinquent water customers, despite a recent lawsuit filed in Hinds County Chancery Court.

However, that could change if the city council approves an agenda item at a special meeting on June 27.

On that day, the council will consider a motion from Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes to end all water disconnects for nonpayment, pending the outcome of the Siemens lawsuit.

The move comes just weeks after the city of Jackson filed suit against Siemens for complications related to a $91 million energy performance contract, and days after six customers filed suit against the city for continuing water shutoffs in the light of Siemens complications.

In the latter suit, the customers claim that shutting off water because the Siemens work has resulted in “woefully inadequate and ‘exorbitant’ bills.”

Residents and businesses in the suit include Alex Allen, LaTrenda Funches, Joseph Johnson, Kenneth Mabry, Barbara Evans and Village Cleaners.

Jackson began shutting off water for nonpayment last year, after more than 20,000 accounts that had been “stranded” as a result of the Siemens work were corrected.

Collections work ramped up earlier this year.

Public Works Director Robert Miller said collections efforts will continue as directed.

“The Water and Sewer Business Administration staff continue(s) to enforce the credit and collections practices based upon the service rules … adopted by the city council.”

Meanwhile, Jackson is seeking $225 million in damages from Siemens and several of its subcontractors for work related to the city’s 2012 energy performance contract.

According to court documents, “this case involves a massive fraud orchestrated by Siemens under the guise of an energy performance contract promising $120 million in guaranteed savings for the city. Siemens was paid $90 million to install a new automated water meter and billing system and to make repairs to the city’s water treatment plant and sewer lines.

The substantial majority of the purported 'savings' under the contract are phony, assumed amounts that are not measured against actual savings or revenue realized by the city,” the city’s complaint states. “Siemens represented that it would structure the agreement to comply with energy performance contracting requirements, but it intentionally omitted any true performance guarantees or energy savings in the contract itself.”

Work included installing some 65,000 water meters, doing some light infrastructure work and creating and installing a new water/sewer billing system.

Subcontractors named in the case include Chris McNeil, U.S. Consolidated Inc., M.A.C. & Associates LLC, Invision IT Consultants LLC, Garrett Enterprises Consolidated, and John Does 1-10. Other contractors, including Mueller Systems and Origin Consulting, were not named in the suit.

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Cheering for Jackson Prep this year are (from left, back) Eliza Hollingsworth, Margaret Dye, Livi Mathews, Addy Katherine Allen, Rosemary McClintock, Kennedy Cleveland, Rachel Rutledge, Mari Lampt