Newton Dealing with Water Department Woes

A controversy has surfaced in Newton over water billing and the employees in that department.

Those employees walked off the job Wednesday in anger over their working conditions.

A special called meeting of the board of aldermen was held Thursday because of that walk-off.

Newton Public Works director Jerry Bounds spent much of the meeting defending his support for almost all workers who left out of frustration over what they call deplorable working conditions.

Following the board's regular meeting Tuesday, when action was discussed but not actually taken to address the concerns, all but three workers within the department decided to take the day off as a vacation day.

Public Works director Jerry Bounds and Newton Mayor David Carr supported this. However, Mayor Pro-Tem Eric McCalphia, who helped call Thursday's special meeting, says this was the wrong way to handle the situation.

"You never let your entire department off," said McCalphia. "What if there's an emergency or something?"

"Probably the only thing that wasn't handled is that I probably should've informed the board about it," said Carr.

Following an executive session the board passed a measure that, in the future, will not allow the majority of a department to take off from work other than on regular holidays.

The public works building is located in an old Coca-Cola facility. The employees complained that the meeting room has fungus and mold growing from the floor and leaking in offices and areas for supplies.

Workers say so much water leaks in the men's room when it rains that it reaches up to the ankles.

The board of aldermen is looking at options for a different facility, a small trailer or other housing. Board members say action on this will likely be taken at the next meeting Aug. 18.

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