VOSJ Explains Labor Drive Suit, Special Meeting Set for Monday Night

By Benjamin Cox on May 2, 2021 at 6:58pm

A Village of South Jacksonville trustee is hoping to clear the air about litigation surrounding the village and Labor Drive over water rates.

Village Trustee Todd Warrick says that the issue with water rates for Labor Drive goes back to the early 2000s and was a mess left by previous administrations: “This problem started back when Labor Drive was first built. I don’t know who owned it back then, but it was allowed to be built with not enough water meters. Each apartment is not metered, so you may have one meter [measuring] water for four, five, or six apartments and that’s also where your wastewater is charged by how much water that you use. You can see what kind of nightmare that this is. This started back in, like Mr. [Tyson] Manker said, January 2006 – way back before any of the sitting board members were currently elected to the board. So, we are trying to mop up a problem that has been there, and we are trying to find a solution to it, and do what’s right for the Village to move on.”

Warrick says the present trustees were never attempting to cover anything up. He says that he and current trustee Jason Hill were only made aware of the problem after discovering a bill in the monthly payables for an outside attorney that is not affiliated with the village’s current designated law firm Brown, Hay, and Stephens a few months after taking office. Warrick encourages residents to look up the case in the free service Judici online if they have questions on the history of the case. Warrick says that the silence on the case has been to protect the fragility of the settlement.

The board is expected to make an announcement on the case during a special meeting Monday night at 7PM. The announcement and a proposed settlement is the lone action item. Warrick says he doesn’t expect the settlement to effect any rate problems moving forward. In fact, he’s not in favor of a current proposal on the table by the previous administration: “It did come up by [current Village President Harry] Jennings for a water rate increase and a sewer rate decrease, which I don’t agree with. We don’t have any control over how much it costs for sewer, because we contract that out to the City of Jacksonville. Those rates are set by the City of Jacksonville. We can set the rates for how much it costs to produce water. Any rate increase right now, I think would be absurd for what’s going on right now. I think we need to wait and get everything back to some semblance of normality before we raise any rates at all. I can say that the Village produces water well under [cost] of any neighboring community.”

Warrick says the litigation should not effect any upcoming utility projects either. He believes that progress on a proposed new water tower for the village is moving forward. He says the new water tower will help village water supply, combat shortages and problems in emergencies, and help to better supply the village fire department to fight fires.