Water Authority members vote to pay themselves
by Sarah Fay Campbell
A month after the Coweta County Board of Commissioners voted down a proposal to pay members of the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority for their services, the authority members themselves voted unanimously Wednesday to pay themselves $500 a month.
The three members of the authority are appointed by the county commissioners and oversee the operation of the water and sewer system.
The resolution for compensation was approved Wednesday with no discussion. The resolution states that “compensation for officers meetings and reimbursement for expenses be in a reasonable amount not to exceed $500 per month.”
Authority attorney Melissa Griffis stated after the meeting that the compensation would be $500 per month. The money will be paid out of Water and Sewerage Authority funds.
On May 6, Coweta County Commissioner Rodney Brooks brought up the issue of compensating authority members, and asked Griffis to speak about the responsibilities of the members.
Griffis said Wednesday she was at the commission meeting for another matter, not to speak on board compensation, and that the authority had not brought up the issue.
“I’m not really sure how it came up with the board of commissioners,” she said. According to a resolution presented to the commissioners on May 6, the state legislation that created the authority allows the board of commissioners to provide for compensation to the authority members.
Brooks made a motion to compensate the members at a rate not to exceed $500. “They don’t have to pay themselves $500,” Brooks said during the meeting.
Brooks’ motion led to a lengthy and at times contentious discussion among the commissioners on May 6, and the resolution was defeated by a vote of 3-2.
The difference between the resolution voted down by the commissioners and the one approved by the authority is that one refers to “members” and the other to “officers.”
Practically, they are one and the same – the authority has three members. One serves as chairman, another as vice chairman and the third as secretary/treasurer.
However, the legislation that created the authority makes a distinction. In one section, it authorizes the commissioners to set compensation for members. In another section, it authorizes officers to set their compensation.
“The statute allows us to compensate officers,” said Chairman Neal Shepard after Wednesday’s meeting. When asked, Shepard was unaware the county commissioners had voiced opposition to paying the authority members $500.
At the county commission meeting on May 6, Commissioner Tim Lassetter said surrounding counties of Coweta’s size pay members around $100 a month. Douglas County pays its members $105 a month, Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn said.
On Wednesday, Griffis said authority members in those other counties are actually paid per meeting, not per month, and attend multiple meetings.
“So what you’re looking at is really very similar to the same monthly amount,” Griffis said. Griffis added that, two years ago, the authority hired consultants to do a study of the personnel structure and pay rates. The consultants were also asked to make a recommendation of what a proper level of compensation should be for a board of that size, according to Griffis.
Griffis said that, after the discussion at the county commission meeting, “we went back and looked at the legislation” and saw the item that allowed officers to compensate themselves.
“Our board doesn’t think they did anything against the board of commissioners,” she said. “They believe they are following the legislation that is already in place.”
Coweta County has other authorities, including the Airport Authority and Coweta County Development Authority, and the members of those authorities are not paid, though they are reimbursed for expenses. Members of the county’s other boards, such as the Zoning Appeals Board and Animal Control Board, also aren’t paid.
The county commissioners are paid. The base salary is $12,000 for commissioners and $14,000 for the chairman. Certified commissioners get an additional $1,200. There are also cost-of-living adjustments and “longevity increases.”