Flo Water Meets in Centerville: No Answers Concerning Office Manager

The Flo Community Water Supply Corporation (FCWSC) chose to meet again in the small board room of the Centerville Housing Authority. The meeting was held Friday, October 26th. All directors were present, and President Mike Mead presided. Also at the meeting were Patricia Coy, the attorney for the board, and an independent auditor that was hired to conduct an audit of FCWSC.

For the last several years, FCWSC has held their meetings on the third Thursday of the month at the Memorial Methodist Church in Buffalo. But earlier this month, FCWSC held a special called meeting at the Centerville location. The special meeting followed a few days after Office Manager Lela Patterson had been put on leave from her duties with pay.

Patterson, who began working for FCWSC five and a half years ago, following a turbulent time with the water company, has been extremely popular with the customers and the crew that works for FCWSC. Customers feel the office has run more efficiently since Patterson?s arrival, and they are very pleased with Patterson?s attentiveness to their concerns.

As of now, according to Patterson, she has no idea why she was put on leave. No one has asked her a question about her work or made any indications of what the board?s concerns are. Mead, with board members Mike Wheeler and Doris Pittman went to the office on a Sunday morning, on or around September 29th. Patterson was alerted by the security system that there was activity at the office and drove there to check on the property. On Patterson?s arrival, Mead told her she would be on leave with pay starting immediately. No explanation was given.

Asked by former FCWSC Director Barbara Johnson if the audit had been completed. Mead said that it had not been completed, and though he had an idea of when it might be completed, he was not at liberty to say.

Johnson asked if Patterson would be told anything about why she had been put on leave. Mead responded that Johnson had missed her opportunity to speak at the the time allowed for public comments and did not answer the question.

Earlier in the meeting, this reporter inquired as to why the normal location for the meeting and the day for the meeting had been changed. Meade indicated there was no real reason. Some FCWSC customers have wondered if changing the meeting to a new location outside of Buffalo was a way to discourage the public from attending. Mead said, ?No, it?s not any big secret.?

Asked why the agenda was not posted on the FCWSC website like it normally is, Mead said that he did not know how to do that, and no one else on the board could do that either. Later, after a closed session, Mead said that Coy would post the agenda next week on the website, and that they would continue to hold meetings at the Centerville Housing Authority.

One item on the agenda for information only was the Corporation Phone Service. Field Manager Mark Collins explained that the phones were used by all the field personnel because when they use their personal phones on the job they are often working in areas that cannot pick up service. (FCWSC is a rural community, much of it is remote.)

Collins said, ?In my opinion, having the phone has saved time and money. Communication, plus the ability to send pictures from the work area, has helped us get projects done faster. The phones are well worth the expenditure.? Board members seemed to question if the phones were ever approved.

Another area of concern was the current policy of giving field employees travel time when they are called to work outside of their regular hours. Mead instructed Collins to inform employees that they will not be paid for driving to work outside of regular hours.

The meeting ended in frustration for those wondering what will happen at the Flo Water Office and wondering if things will get back to what they had come to feel was positive after so many years of struggle for the close knit rural community of Flo.