MT. ZION PSD BANK ACCOUNT EMPTIED - Company That Brought Lawsuit Says "I Hated To Do It"


Water, Sewer Operations Turned Over To Grantsville

By David Hedges, Publisher
Roane County Reporter

Members of Mt. Zion public Service District turned over operations of the Mt. Zion water and sewer systems to the town of Grantsville this week after a law suit left the PSD without a cent in their bank account.

"At least this will keep the water flowing, which is the primary concern," PSD member Roscoe "Cokey" Gainer said this week.

Although the agreement is for a year, Gainer said the PSD could resume operating the system sooner if financial problems are ironed out.

Former water and sewer system operators Tom Fluharty and Dick Ullum filed suit in Calhoun Circuit Court, alleging that the PSD owed them thousands of dollars for work they performed while under a contract for more than two years.

While working for the PSD, Fluharty said he and Ullum paid for everything from chlorine tablets to sewer pumps out of their own pockets.

"We bought it on our credit cards so we could have material to work with," Fluharty said. "We kept a tally of it for them."

After they resigned in late 2011, Fluharty said the men asked for monthly payments of $2,000 and the PSD members agreed.

"I think they did it for two months, and then they quit," he said.

Fluharty said the men hired former Wirt County prosecutor Leslie Maze, who filed a lawsuit on their behalf in Calhoun Circuit Court.

"I hated to do it, but after two and a half years of trying to get a payment, the only resource we had was to get a lawyer and have it done," he said.

The PSD never contested the lawsuit, and last month Judge David Nibert awarded a defaultjudgment for $71,000, whioh included interest on the debt.

When the PSD failed to respond, the judge authorized seizure ofthe their bank accounts, and last week Maze received a check on behalf of her clients for $46,365.40, which Calhoun Banks told her was all the money the PSD had in their accounts.

Fluharty said he and Ullum are still owed about $25,000. He said Maze plans to file a lien against a new pickup truck and excavator the PSD purchased after the men left.

"They already had a truck," Fluharty said. "It was never used."

Once the PSD was left penniless, their employees stopped reporting to work and the state health department issued a boil water advisory for all the customers on the system because the water was not being tested regularly.

Those customers include two of the three schools in Calhoun County, Arnoldsburg Elementary and Calhoun Middle/High School at Mt. Zion.

With the boil water advisory in effect, Gainer said the schools could not use the water for drinking or food preparation.

"There was even something put out that said they could not wash their hands with it," he said.

On Friday, PSD members Gainer, Sharon Postalwait, and Shirley Mace met with the Grantsville Town Council about the possibility of the town taking over operations of the Mt. Zion water and sewer systems. The PSD already purchased all of its water from Grantsville, Gainer said, at a cost of $10,000 to $12,000 per month.

The council agreed, on a 3-2 vote, to try it for one year.

An agreement was prepared and approved by the PSD members Gainer and Postalwait at their regular meeting Monday night. Mace did not attend.

Grantsville was to begin operating the system Tuesday.

Grantsville Mayor Curtis Garretson told the Hur Herald the boil water advisory could be lifted as early as Wednesday of this week.

Gainer said Grantsviile planned to hire the PSDs, three employees, including an office worker and two field workers.

"As far as I know, they are planning on using them," Gainer said.

He said the PSD members hoped to get their finances worked out and resume operating the system as quickly as possible. He said a similar situation elsewhere in the state was solved in a little over three months.

Gainer said the Mt. Zion PSD would continue to hold regular meetings the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the community building at Arnoldsburg.

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