South Jacksonville Dealing With Utility Issues

By Benjamin Cox on October 22, 2022 at 7:00am

The Village of South Jacksonville wasn’t just dealing with a broken phone system at Village Hall this week. Village President Dick Samples revealed Thursday night during the village board’s monthly committee of the whole meeting that South Jacksonville water customers are currently on the City of Jacksonville’s water system.

Streets & Utility Superintendent Brian English notified the board of trustees of a list of problems at the village’s water plant located in Oxville in rural Scott County. Broken generators, inoperable 5-ton dump trucks that failed state inspection, lagoons in disrepair, vegetation growing through water pipes, multiple broken valves and chemical pumps were just some of the things described by English to the board, which were also supported by copies of photographs that were circulated among the trustees. English says that the reason why the village is on the city water is because the main water pump that sends potable water from the water plant to the village is broken. English informed the board that the water pump would be removed with a crane on Friday morning to be repaired to get the village’s water back online as soon as possible. No timeline on when that would occur was given.

English also says that a building down at the water plant that was being renovated is currently incomplete: “So Clint Stevens was the one doing the work, and from what I’ve gathered on everything, we’ve paid him…and it’s not done. We have no fascia. The fascia is not done. There is no guttering. None of the back side fascia boards are up. None of the soffit.” English confirmed to the board that per the contract, the work was supposed to already be completed.

Stevens pleaded guilty to a single count of home repair fraud in Morgan County Circuit Court in May. Stevens currently has other pending civil litigation for violation of construction contracts with several other private parties in the county.

Former Village Streets & Utilities Superintendent John Green

Village President Dick Samples went on to criticize prior Streets & Utilities Superintendent John Green for not keeping up with maintenance on items at the water plant: “At the water plant, I hired Bryce McCormick as the [part-time] water superintendent to replace John, and he’s interim until Brian can get his license. We had to pay John $1,000 a month to sign off on the water. Bryce has sent a list of repairs and improvements. All of these repairs and improvements are down at the water plant at Oxville. That act right there is more than John has ever done forever on it. This water plant, in my opinion, has been held together with bubblegum, bailing wire, and paper clips with nothing being spent on it forever. That’s one reason John was able to keep his budget X-amount of dollars because he never spent on anything.”

McCormick is currently the wastewater operator for the nearby Village of Chapin. McCormick is also a volunteer firefighter for the Village of Chapin.

English told the village board while going through the pictures with the board of trustees that the problems were an accumulation of 20 years of deferring regular maintenance.

Samples said after the meeting that all of the necessary repairs and improvements are going to increase the utilities budget for the current fiscal year so that the water plant can get back in operation and functioning correctly: “It’s been about 20 years since the water plant was built. I don’t know when the last time the lagoon was cleaned, but it needed to be cleaned on a regular basis and it wasn’t. We hired Bryce McCormick and he went down there and he pointed out things that needed to be labeled, gaskets that needed to be changed, maintenance items that needed to be done, and that’s what [the utility department] is in the process of doing.”

When asked about a dollar amount on the problems that are currently being fixed, Samples says the costs aren’t extremely sizable: “I don’t have an exact amount. I don’t have any idea on what it’s going to cost. It’s nothing super. It’s nothing…$100,000 or anything like this. It’s just probably $20,000-$30,000 worth. I’m guessing, but I think it will be in that ballpark.”

Samples believes that village employees will have to complete the work on the water plant building. He says that he is possibly going to discuss the Stevens construction contract with Village Attorney Rob Cross before any further action is taken. Samples says he is going to investigate the current contract and how much Stevens has received in payment.

Samples does not believe that increasing the utility department’s budget to ensure the annual maintenance on things are done is going to change the village’s tax levy in the near term.

In a phone conversation between WLDS News with former Utility Superintendent John Green, Green says he doesn’t want to get down into the muck of name calling or accusations. He says he believes he did the best job he could do and that current and former employees of the village’s utility department can attest to the job he did as the department’s head and that he had no further comments.

Green resigned with the Village of South Jacksonville after 25 1/2 years to take a job to help maintain the City of Jacksonville’s Municipal Building grounds in June.