(The Center Square) – Texas' energy grid is meeting peak demands and system-wide demand records as more people moving to Texas are increasing usage and temperatures sustain triple digits.
The state says it is meeting energy demands after system-wide reforms and improvements were made in response to directives issued by the governor and state legislature after the winter freeze and power failure in February 2021. After a year of collaboration with multiple agencies spearheaded by the Railroad Commission of Texas, additional reforms are also in the works.
With statewide temperatures hitting triple digits and not enough wind expected to generate energy for electricity, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), issued a conservation warning this week. ERCOT, which oversees the Texas electrical grid, asked residents and businesses to voluntarily conserve electricity between 2 and 8 p.m. on Monday, stating that wind turbines were expected to produce less than 10% of their capacity.
In response, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke issued a campaign statement, tweeting, “We can’t rely on the grid when it’s hot. We can’t rely on the grid when it’s cold. We can’t rely on Greg Abbott. It’s time to vote him out and fix the grid.”
But the day before, ERCOT communications issued a statement to media saying it “expects sufficient generation to meet forecasted demand.” So far, the grid has met demand.
ERCOT said Wednesday “there is enough power for current demand” showing that the grid’s operating reserves was 4,449 MW as of 8 am CST."
The grid also was prepared to manage triple digit temperatures and increasing demand, ERCOT announced in a May report forecasting its capability for the summer. It said, “The ERCOT region is expected to have sufficient installed generating capacity to serve peak demands in the upcoming summer season, June - September 2022, under normal system conditions and most of the reserve capacity risk scenarios examined.”
As more people and businesses are moving to Texas, electricity demands are also increasing.
“With continued economic growth across the state, ERCOT anticipates a summer 2022 peak demand of 77,317 MW,” the report states. The demand is “a new system-wide peak demand record for the region.”
But it also anticipated having 91,392 MW of resource capacity available to meet the demand during summer peak demand hours, including “473 MW of planned gas-fired, utility-scale solar and wind capacity,” it said. It also expected having 2,035 MW of operational battery storage resources, including 283 MW of planned additions.
The announcements came after Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Public Utility Commission and ERCOT last July to implement changes to ensure the Texas grid was more reliable. ERCOT also began implementing new reforms directed by the state legislature.
Abbott said the changes, “combined with the enhanced enforcement tools provided by the Texas Legislature will ensure greater stability and reliability of the Texas electric grid.”
Since then, “significant progress” has been made “by Texas facilities to supply the fuel in emergency weather conditions,” the Texas Railroad Commission said in January after the energy industry had spent months making upgrades and its inspectors had conducted site visits and inspections at nearly 4,000 facilities.
Six months later, the commission approved a proposed sweeping weatherization rule to “help protect Texans during weather emergencies that could occur any time of the year.”
A public comment period extends through August 15, after which the commission will review comments and adopt a final rule.
The rule covers critical facilities on the state’s Electricity Supply Chain Map, including natural gas wells and oil leases producing casinghead gas, underground storage facilities, gas processing plants, and gas pipelines. It covers a range of facility and infrastructure types with different weather patterns and geography, requiring operators to weatherize them according to extreme low and high temperatures for each county. Inspectors will enforce the rule and have the authority to issue fines of up to $1 million a day.
The European Parliament Wednesday voted to advance legislation which would include certain gas and nuclear energy-related activities in the European Union (EU) list of environmentally sustainable activities. This inclusion, subject to strict conditions, aims to enable EU members’ transition to climate neutrality by 2050.
In 2020 the EU passed the Taxonomy Regulation, setting out a classification system of environmentally sustainable activities. The regulation lists six environmental objectives: climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, the sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, the transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems. Activities contributing “substantially” to one or more of these objectives while not harming any of them are considered environmentally sustainable.
The taxonomy seeks to guide private investment toward sustainable activities and does not dictate which energy sources EU member states are to use.
The European Commission (EC) passed the first Delegated Regulation in 2021, providing clear criteria for environmentally sustainable activities in sectors such as energy from solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, bioenergy and hydropower sources. However, the EC excluded nuclear power in the 2021 regulation since a scientific assessment of the effects of nuclear power was ongoing at the time. Similarly, gas power was excluded since “further reflection was needed on how to address the role of gas in the decarbonisation of the [EU’s] economy.”
On February 2 the EC presented a Complementary Delegated Regulation covering these two areas in light of a completed scientific analysis by the EC’s Joint Research Centre. While noting that nuclear energy activities were low-carbon and a part of many EU members’ efforts to decarbonize by 2050, the text laid down “clear and strict conditions,” subject to which certain nuclear and gas energy-related activities could be added as “transitional activities,” to the list of activities in the first Delegated Regulation.
These conditions include contributing to the “transition to climate neutrality,” fulfilling “nuclear and environmental safety requirements” (for nuclear) and contributing to the “transition from coal to renewables” (for gas). Moreover, the regulation introduces disclosure requirements to allow investors to make informed choices about investments involving gas or nuclear activities.
The European Parliament and the Council were given four months to veto the regulation. For the Council, this means at least 20 EU members representing at least 65% of the EU population voting against the regulation, while for the European Parliament, it means at least 353 of its 705 members voting against it. Since neither the European Parliament nor the Council has vetoed the regulation, it will enter into force on 1 January 2023.
The EC welcomed the latter’s vote not to veto the regulation, stating it was a recognition of the EC’s “pragmatic and realistic approach” towards climate neutrality.
CENTRAL FALLS – Central Falls will have just one challenge at the local level with three candidates trying for two at-large seats on the City Council, and current City Council President Jessica Vega announced she is not seeking re-election.
Candidates will need to collect 200 signatures by registered voters on their nomination papers by July 15 to stay in the race for the November election.
Vega, 34, has held two terms on the council after first being elected in 2018. She said she decided against seeking re-election as developments in her personal and professional life will limit the time she can commit to the city. She works full-time as an initiative director with Dunamis Synergy in Providence, and she recently became engaged.
In her four years on the council, Vega said she was privileged to work alongside both current Mayor Maria Rivera and former Mayor James Diossa. She said the city’s participatory budgeting process in June, which allowed city residents to vote for their top projects to be funded for up to $50,000, was among the accomplishments she was most proud to see come to fruition. She said she has been grateful to use her position to create opportunities for city residents, youth specifically, to be involved with local government.
“I feel like I’ve always been doing community work, but when you have this title as a city councilperson, I’ve always viewed this role as you should use that power to be able to empower others,” she said.
Outgoing Councilor Glendaliz Colon will not be seeking re-election to one of the two at-large seats. Incumbent at-large Councilor Tatiana Baena is running for a second term. New candidates for at-large seats are Laurilim Rosado and Alfonso Acevedo.
Baena said she wants to “continue uplifting the voices of all residents at City Hall, fighting for greater investment in our youth’s education, after-school programming and job opportunities, good-paying jobs for all our residents through expanded adult education and workforce training programs, and greater accountability and better city services that Improve the quality of life for all.”
A lifelong resident, she said specific goals for a second term would be to continue her focus on fiscal management and to establish a youth commission to create and coordinate programs and resources for city children. In addition to her work as a councilor, Baena is the grant coordinator for Central Falls schools, co-owns booth. event space on Main Street in Pawtucket, and is the founder and president of the Mundialito non-profit futsal league.
Rosado, a 10-year resident of the city, said she originally considered running for office in 2020, but ultimately did not file. The mother of three children has spent the last two years preparing for a campaign by working alongside city officials and community members. She is a current member of the Planning Board and Personnel Board. She previously worked as a data compliance officer in the Central Falls School District for seven years, before her current job as vocational rehabilitation counselor for Rhode Island Office of Rehabilitation Services. Her top priorities include advocating for public health, city safety, housing access, and education.
“I’m focusing my campaign to have better education, to have a city that is safe for every single resident, every single kid, and making affordable housing for the city,” Rosado said.
Acevedo, a Colombia native and long-time city resident, is the founder and editor of America News, a monthly Spanish language newspaper writing on statewide, regional and national topics, opinion pieces, and entertainment news since 1992. He said he is heavily involved in the community, and has volunteered as an art teacher for Adams Public Library programs for 10 years. He previously ran for a Ward 2 seat on the council in 2012, but lost by a close margin, and is running again as an independent after encouragement from fellow residents to bring his non-partisan views to the municipal level.
“I think I have the energy and I have ideas to bring to the council. In this case, as councilor-at-large, I can offer more and support ideas for the entire city,” he said. “I want to offer to all residents a voice and opportunity to get somebody independent on the council — I want to offer my voice for everybody in an independent way.”
The races for all five ward seats on the city council are uncontested, with four out of five seats being pursued by incumbents: Meaghan Levasseur, Ward 1; Robert Ferri, Ward 2; Kevin Kazarian, Ward 3; and Franklin Solano, Ward 4. Rafael Peguero is running to fill the Ward 5 seat being vacated by Vega.
Peguero, who turned 67 on July 4, works as an executive chef at Bridgewater State University. He said he was encouraged to run for the vacant seat by neighbors and city officials, including his neighbor and former Sen. Dan Issa and Ward 4 council incumbent Solano. Vega said she too is endorsing her successor. Peguero said he’s excited to provide a voice for community members of all ages, and to take office as the city continues to reinvent itself.
“I feel that Central Falls is going in a good direction, but there is always space to improve,” he said. “... I remember in the past, people used to make not good comments about Central Falls. I think right now people are seeing Central Falls a little differently, and I think it’s time to jump and make sure we continue doing a better job for the city.”
ZAGREB, 13 July 2022 - The European Commission recommended to Croatia in its annual rule of law report on Wednesday to reconsider security checks on judges, to regulate lobbying, to increase the transparency of state advertising in the media, and to address the issue of lawsuits against journalists.
"The process for appointing the President of the Croatian Supreme Court, a challenge raised in the 2021 Rule of Law Report, was concluded," the report says.
"Responding to findings of the past Rule of Law Reports, amendments strengthened the State Judicial Council’s and State Attorney’s Council’s role in the selection of judges and state attorneys, and, as committed in the context of the Croatian Recovery and Resilience Plan."
New laws introducing regular security checks on judges and state attorneys conducted by the National Security Agency raised concerns, the report notes.
One of the recommendations therefore is to reconsider "the newly introduced periodic security checks conducted by the National Security Agency on all judges and state attorneys by ensuring their integrity based on other existing mechanisms, taking into account European standards on judicial independence and autonomy of prosecutors and the opinion of the Venice Commission."
"Criminal proceedings concerning cases of alleged corruption among judges and disciplinary proceedings are ongoing. The level of perceived judicial independence remains very low," the report says, adding that the Supreme Court President disseminated a questionnaire for judges "which has raised concerns among them.
The questionnaire requested information on the external activities of judges and their income, their membership in associations, public appearances, the employment at courts of their family members/relatives, and any lawsuits brought by them against journalists.
Long criminal proceedings undermine the fight against corruption
"The justice system extended electronic communication tools and decreased backlogs at higher court instances, but significant efficiency and quality issues remain."
The Commission notes that a new Strategy on the Prevention of Corruption for 2021-2030 was adopted in October 2021 to strengthen the prevention of corruption and raise awareness about its harmfulness.
"While the effective investigation of corruption continued, including on high-level corruption, the number of indictments and final judgments for corruption decreased. The excessive length of criminal proceedings continues to undermine the effectiveness of the anti-corruption framework," the report says.
"The new Law on the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest has strengthened asset declarations and improved the framework on revolving doors."
A Code of Ethics was adopted for members of Government, however, a similar one for members of Parliament and detailed rules on lobbying activities remain to be introduced, the report says. "The new framework on the protection of whistleblowers entered into force On the Government’s proposal, Parliament adopted amendments to remove immunity of members of Government for corruption crimes."
High number of cases of abusive litigation targeting journalists
"The legal framework for media pluralism and freedom guarantees the basic right of freedom of expression and the right to information. There are concerns about the political independence of the Council for Electronic Media and the management of the public service broadcaster HRT," the report says.
"The revised Electronic Media Act updated rules on the transparency of state advertising and media ownership, and on media concentration. However, a need remains to further strengthen the framework on state advertising, including the new public tender procedure, as concerns related to the economic dependence of certain media outlets on state advertising persist. The establishment of an independent, self-regulatory body for the media is being discussed."
The Commission recommends further strengthening "the framework for a fair and transparent allocation of state advertising, by establishing clear criteria, good practices and oversight measures to guarantee the effective functioning of the new public tender procedure for local and regional media."
"The professional environment for journalists is impacted by verbal aggressions against journalists, including by politicians. A high number of cases of abusive litigation targeting journalists remains a significant concern. Delays in the processing of requests for information from journalists remain an issue," the report says.
The Commission recommends addressing "the issue of strategic lawsuits against public participation targeted at journalists, including by addressing the abuse of legal provisions on defamation and encouraging awareness, taking into account European standards on the protection of journalists."
The Commission notes that the number and duration of public consultations increased, which resulted in more participants providing their comments, and that Parliament further decreased the use of emergency procedures.
The Constitutional Court reviewed some emergency measures and has accumulated backlog due to lack of resources, the report says, adding that a challenge exists regarding the follow-up of the Ombudsperson’s recommendations, and on access to information. "While some preparatory steps were taken, the Government has not progressed in adoption of the new National Plan for Creating an Enabling Environment for the Civil Society Development 2021-2027."
One of the recommendations is to ensure a more systematic follow-up to recommendations and information requests of the Ombudsperson.
Speaking at a press conference, Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova said that due to problems under the previous Slovenian government, primarily due to difficulties in financing the Slovenian STA news agency, the Commission started thinking about introducing mandatory rules for all member states in order to protect the media sphere as well as possible.
"Rule of law remains a bedrock of democracy. Russia's war in Ukraine is another reminder of the importance of our work to uphold and promote rule of law in the EU and beyond. This year's report shows that the debate about rule of law in Europe is making progress as Member States make improvements and address rule of law matters. Unfortunately, concerns still remain in some Member States, especially when it comes to the independence of judiciary," she said.
For more, check out our politics section.
Columbia City Council approved an ordinance aimed at increasing police oversight at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
The ordinance amends city code to require the police chief to request additional time to provide the Citizens Police Review Board and city manager enough time to perform complaint reviews.
The city code currently calls for the city manager to hold a hearing on whether to extend a complaint review, according to city staff.
The Citizens Police Review Board wrote a letter to the council in February expressing its concern about the potential for complaints to go without review.
“Board members are concerned that the Police Department may let the time period pass without seeking an extension and thereby avoid civilian oversight on a complaint,” the letter said.
Multiple members of the public asked council members to table the code change, with some calling for an overhaul of the Citizens Police Review Board and the appeal process.
“It seems certainly premature to vote on this to me,” Robin Rotman said, “because there seems to be enormous confusion among the members of the council as to what this ordinance would accomplish.”
Other residents expressed their confusion about the ordinance change.
“This is as clear as mud,” Barbara Jefferson said.
Sixth Ward Councilperson Betsy Peters and Fifth Ward Councilperson Matt Pitzer also expressed confusion regarding the code change. Peters said she would be in favor of tabling the subject to allow the council to have more discussion about the matter.
Fourth Ward Councilperson Nick Foster, Second Ward Councilperson Andrea Waner and First Ward Councilperson Pat Fowler countered. All said they would vote in favor of the ordinance with Foster describing it as making sure the Citizens Police Review Board has time to do its work.
Fowler questioned city staff on how the amendment would affect a person’s ability to appeal a decision and whether they might be shut out by time constraints.
“I think that we need to allow in the interim for our citizens to be able to file a complaint and have confidence that that appeal will be reviewed,” Fowler said.
Pitzer made a motion to table discussion of the ordinance to Oct. 3, but it was struck down in a 4-3 vote. The ordinance ended up passing in a 6-1 vote, with Pitzer being the only council member to vote against it.
Columbia’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 1.5% since 2015, according to the 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report.
The report outlines the city’s annual emissions and was presented to City Council members at the pre-council meeting Tuesday by Sustainability Manager Eric Hempel.
Greenhouse gas emissions also came up during Tuesday’s regular council meeting when City Council members heard from Carolyn Amparan during the public comment portion of the meeting. Amparan, the chair of the Sierra Club mid-Missouri Group, continued to urge the council to move forward on developing rental energy efficiency standards.
Amparan noted that over 50% of the houses in Columbia are rental homes and developing standards could go a long way in reducing greenhouse emissions for all of Columbia.
“Moving forward rapidly on this initiative is a matter of climate justice,” Amparan said.
Sustainability staff previously reported to council members that a policy concerning rental energy efficiency could also have an impact on important community issues, such as housing affordability.
The policy will be developed through input from renters and landlords and the sustainability office has requested $50,000 in funding for fiscal year 2023 to “procure technical assistance and engagement support” to do this work.
After a brief discussion, council members voted 7-0 to allow the development of a rental energy efficiency policy to continue.
Kathy Baker was sworn in as the city’s new director of human resources during the council’s regular meeting Tuesday. Baker has been serving as acting director since November, according to a June 30 news release.
Pitzer countered, saying that the more pressing issue was the timeline for the renovations.
"We're now like, four years overdue on the design and the plans for the first stage of improvements and upgrades," he said. "I mean, there's just so much stuff that's just gotta get fixed and gotta get fixed as soon as possible."
At the end of the meeting, council members continued to talk about the best way to implement virtual attendance and participation in board, commission and council meetings. Fowler requested that audio recordings of meetings for council members and the public to listen to later also be part of that discussion.
Fowler also brought up the current relations between the Citizens Police Review Board and the Columbia Police Department, calling them “toxic.”
Peters agreed, suggesting that council could bring in a consultant or an outside source to look at what’s going wrong, while Waner said she was at the point to “blow the whole thing up" and rebuild it.
Council members all agreed that the interaction between the review board and the police department was not serving the best interests of the community.
The council asked city staff to look into the best possible options on how to fix relations.
Multiple proposals aimed at bolstering housing and homeless services will be considered during Monday’s City Council meeting at 6 p.m.
A public hearing will be held on an interim zoning ordinance that allows shelters to be operated in heavy industrial areas citywide. The interim zoning ordinance would be in effect until Nov. 7, 2022, unless extended or canceled at a public hearing.
The City Council on June 27 approved a lease agreement for a homeless shelter at 4320 E. Trent Ave. in East Spokane. The facility is owned by Lawrence B. Stone Properties #4320, LLC, and is expected to be ready for occupancy around the beginning of August and will serve as a low-barrier shelter occupying 150-250 unhoused individuals.
Proposed contracts are being negotiated with The Guardians Foundation and Salvation Army for operating the shelter and providing wrap-around services respectively.
“All of the moving parts to opening the shelter as another safe temporary housing option for homeless individuals have taken a lot of collaboration with partners and the community and are coming together,” said Eric Finch, Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services Interim Director.
The Council will also consider a resolution requiring all future City-funded homeless service provider contracts include a Good Neighbor Agreement. Good Neighbor Agreements are a strategy to address neighborhood concerns that arise when new resources to support those experiencing homelessness are developed or expanded within the community.
Shelter-related funding amendments are part of the Council’s Consent Agenda.
One proposal is to increase funding for Catholic Charities from the Emergency Solutions Grant provided by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) $79,710 for the Rapid Re-Housing for Families Program for a total contract amount of $232,428. The funds will be used for housing relocation and stabilization services and rent assistance.
The other funding request is a commitment amendment with Volunteers of America for an additional $750,000 from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant due to the elevated costs of reconstruction for the homeless youth and young adult shelter at 3104 E. Augusta Ave.
For more information on these and other Council agenda items, visit https://my.spokanecity.org/citycouncil/meetings/.
The Council meeting can be viewed at https://my.spokanecity.org/citycable5/live/ and https://www.facebook.com/spokanecitycouncil.
The payment of legal fees related to the impeachment of Chief Joe Bunch was discussed at length during the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma council meeting on Saturday, July 2.
The UKB council heard comments from tribal citizens during the public forum segment. Many took issue with item 6 on the agenda, which was a council discussion to vote to approve or disapprove the attorney fee for Dale Ellis, to defend "false accusations and defamation of character by means of impeachment(s)."
Former Goingsnake District Representative Sharon Benoit expressed her opinion to the council.
“There are better ways to spend our UKB dollars. When I say ours, it is ours. It belongs to the constituents. Our numbers count whenever we receive these from the federal government – whether it is relief money, stimulus money, government dollars, all of that – our numbers count,” said Benoit. “When they say $14,000, that’s what’s allotted out to us. It’s to those $14,000 UKB and that includes all of these elderly that live on $700 a month.”
Former Cooweescoowee District Representative Jeannie Tidwell Jeannie Tidwell aired similar grievances.
“You were impeached, you were found guilty on five charges. It should not be up to the tribe to foot your legal bills. Whenever a person makes the decision to go out to hire an attorney, that’s their own responsibility,” said Tidwell. “I’ve had to hire attorneys on many occasions and I never came to the tribe to pay my attorney fees.”
Tidwell said she didn’t know how Bunch expected to be monetarily compensated for defamation, when she had never seen the defamation lawsuit.
“I don’t think it should be up to this council or I don’t think the burden of your bill should be put on the backs of the members of the tribe; that’s basically what would be happening,” said Tidwell. “You would be taking money from people from the tribe, and I just don’t think there’s any justification for that. I hope this council will do away with that resolution and vote it out.”
When it came time to vote on the item, Delaware District Representative Caleb Grimmett said the resolution has gotten him the most texts and calls since he has been on the council.
“I hear you. I hear what you’re saying, but this isn’t a price that people have to pay. It’s not our price to pay,” said Grimmett. “The amount you’re requesting – and you’re making claims of false accusations and defamation – should be more toward the price of those that you’re accusing of making those claims. Not our people’s price to pay, that’s more that could go to a service, that could go to something else useful.”
Bunch ultimately agreed with the complaints.
“My belief as a tribal member, as a chief, is that this was wrong. It should have never should have never gotten out of the starting blocks,” said Bunch. “Having said that, I understand what you are going through, so I will retract this right now."
The motion was struck from the agenda.
In other new business, the council:
• Approved funding for the Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging Older Americans Act Title VI grants (Parts A/b and C) for the grant period of April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2026, and Participation in Cycle VIII of the National Resources Center on Native American Aging Needs Assessment “Identifying Our Needs: A Survey for Elders.”
• Approved the Echota Behavior Health Grant submission to the Heath and Services Administration (HRSA) for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) - Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) access, funding opportunity HRSA-22-165.
• Accepted Caleb Grimmett to fill the vacant seat on the Education Committee.
• Approved the provision of “must have a Driver’s License” to file for office as stated in the Election Ordinance 2022.
• Approved the Emergency Management Policy.
The following items were tabled:
• Discussion to vote to approve/disapprove the amended Housing Ordinance.
• Discussion to vote to approve/disapprove to resend resolution 16-UKB-76 and to bring forth the name of the education building, George Wickliffe Education Building.
The council moved to executive session the acceptance of Chief Joe Bunch, Noah Nofire, Anthony Goossen, Jennifer Cole Robinson, Sara Thompson, with the Treasurer as ex-officio to be known as the budget committee.
The council struck from the agenda an item to vote to approve/disapprove to begin to issue hunting and fishing licenses through the UKB Tag office.
The next UKB Council meeting will be Saturday, Aug. 7, and can be viewed on the tribe's Facebook page.
The St. Tammany Parish Council is stepping up pressure on Parish President Mike Cooper to hire an outside company to operate Tammany Utilities East, the government-owned water and sewer utility that some Slidell area residents blame for chronic skin rashes and other health issues.
The council has been publicly pushing the issue for at least a year, council member Mike Smith said. On Thursday it resolved to ask the administration to request proposals from nationally recognized companies to operate the system.
Cooper responded by saying he was committed to considering all options, including selling, leasing or hiring an outside firm to manage the utility. An administration spokesperson said Friday that Cooper will decide what's in line with the best interests of residents and the government.
The resolution follows a failed attempt to switch the water treatment system to free chlorine for 90 days, a step that residents and the Parish Council had urged. After two weeks, the administration reverted to the previous method of disinfection, a more complex approach that uses a combination of naturally occurring ammonia and chlorine, because of difficulties.
The Parish Council didn't agree with abandoning the 90-day chlorine burn, the resolution said, pointing out that the system is the only one in the parish to used what is known as a chloramine system.
Complaints about the utility spiked in the spring of 2021, when a large sewage leak coincided with a power failure and loss in water pressure. Some residents suspected that could have contaminated the drinking water; they pointed to a wave of gastrointestinal illnesses in the Cross Gates subdivision and other neighborhoods served by the system.
Smith, who district includes neighborhoods on the water system, has gathered a thick file of information, including emails from constituents, medical reports, complaints to the Louisiana Department of Health and the Owen & White consultants' report that reviewed the system.
That information suggests Tammany Utilities East is not doing a good job on a day-to-day basis, Smith said. While the St. Tammany has secured $23 million for long-term improvements and is seeking more, Smith said problems need to be addressed now.
Council members praised the work of acting director Chris Tissue but said he needs more resources. Hiring a firm to handle day-to-day operations would let Tissue work on larger issues.
The administration is constantly having to find personnel, and didn't have enough certified operators a couple of months ago, Smith said.
"If you're not a believer, read that book," council member Jerry Binder said at Thursday's Parish Council meeting. "What is the problem? It's operational. It's been operational all along ... . Ninety-nine out of 100 people would read it, and it's simple. But - and I say this respectfully - we've got the one person who doesn't believe it," Binder said, alluding to Cooper.
"I strongly, strongly ask the parish president, in the most respectful way possible, [to] stop denying. Stop with saying the water is safe to drink," Binder said. "We've got families buying $150 to $200 in bottled water a month."
Cooper replied that the state Health Department would tell the local government if the water was unsafe to drink.
"We are losing employees. They are demoralized," Cooper said. "Every time an issue comes up like this in a public meeting, it demoralizes them. You can certainly see why."
Cooper said the administration has met with companies interest in buying, leasing or managing the system, and will continue to look for the best way to manage the system.
But Binder said he wants to see action: "We're demoralizing your staff? We're just simply responding to the public. You said you are interested in public health, safety and welfare. We ask you to act on that."
More than half of the 83,404 calls made by the public were left unanswered, a council has admitted.
Slough Borough Council said of the calls it received between January and May this year, only 43% were picked up.
The council, which declared bankruptcy last year, said wait times could last 45 minutes but on average people had to wait just over 14. But, some residents said they waited over an hour.
The council said it was planning to restructure its customer service team.
Councillor Safdar Ali said the council had reported a 55% increase in picking up calls from April 2022, but said this was "not an improvement".
"During the exact local election when we went door-to-door, nearly 90% said when they tried to get in touch with the council, they couldn't do so because there was nobody to answer the phone," he said.
Mohammed Ishtiaq, of the council, said since it declared bankruptcy, "a lot" of back-office services had been either closed down or moved to email communication.
Council bosses plan to restructure the customer service team to make sure it has enough resources and capacity to make improvements.
Current processes will be reviewed and customer-led focus groups will be held, LDRS reported.
Eighteen temporary customer service advisors have been recruited, taking the workforce to 54, the authority said.
The former call centre in Landmark Place is set to be converted into 89 flats after it was closed in March 2020.
A new centre is now operating on the ground floor of the council's headquarters Observatory House.
METHUEN — The City Council, during its July 5 meeting, voted 8-1 to use the $631,138 in budget surplus money to pay for expenses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
City employees received a total of $504,352 in hazard pay for continuing to work during the pandemic. In addition, $127,210 was paid out to assist businesses. This came to a total of $631,562 that was not covered by the CARES Act, contrary to the initial understanding of city officials.
“The hazard pay should’ve been covered, it should’ve been covered by the federal funding,” said Councilor-at-Large Jessica Finocchiaro.
Although there is a difference of $424 between the amount that is owed and the amount that was transferred, Chief Administrative and Financial Officer Maggie Duprey said the $424 was already earmarked for pandemic expenses.
Councilor-at-Large Nicholas DiZoglio was concerned with some of the larger surplus amounts. They included $175,000 from contractual non-net school transportation, $75,000 from Veterans Services, $62,000 from Human Resources and $54,138 from the Department of Public Works.
“Between school contractual non-net and veterans, that’s $250K alone,” said DiZoglio. “That’s a lot of money to have left over in the budget.”
However, Duprey said every surplus amount has been justified.
“I could tell you why every single one of those was left over,” she said.
Central District Councilor James McCarty praised Mayor Neil Perry for exercising restraint with this year’s budget, as it will allow the city to pay the pandemic-related expenses.
“I do want to applaud the mayor for tightening the belt across the entire city and finding a funding source,” he said.
Youth Action Committee
The council also voted unanimously to establish a Youth Action Committee.
Myrtle Street resident Callie DeLano, a rising senior at Methuen High School, spoke about the need for this committee.
“Many students at Methuen High School do not know how government works and will therefore not be interested in running for council when they are older,” she said. “Our community is filled with future representatives, we just need to light a fire under them.”
Finocchiaro said the committee will function under the council’s umbrella and will consist of three councilors and 22 high school students ages 14-18.
“It will be a student-run committee,” she said.
Although they are not elected officials, Finocchiaro said students will still be able to take “consensus votes.”
There will also be a push to recruit Methuen students who attend Greater Lawrence Technical School and Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School.
DiZoglio also suggested having a student representative on the council.
“Methuen has done a lot over the last few years, especially the civic engagement classes at the high school,” he said. “It’s definitely a turning point in our community.”