Petersburg considers privatizing water department; residents call for more changes

Petersburg considers privatizing water department; residents call for more changes

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Petersburg leaders will consider handing over the city-owned water department to a private vendor.

This comes after a debacle dating back several months with the city's utility department following inaccurate bills, faulty water meters, and not enough staff members to handle all of the concerns.

One company has already put in a bid to take over the city's water department. Now, Petersburg must advertise to see who else is willing to step up to the plate.

Residents have had enough when it comes to the city water woes, forcing those who run the city to take a closer look.

"Our water system is over 100 years old, multiple leaks in the system. We have no type of capital budget whatsoever to make any kind of repairs," said Robert Bobb with the turnaround agency hired to make changes.

Bobb urged council to consider handing over the water department to an outside company. Council members approved the recommendation. There are about 25 or so employees in the department.

Bobb explained what would happen to their jobs.

"Employees are always protected," Bobb said.

"That's what you'd want to see in this deal?" NBC 12 asked.

"It will absolutely happen," he responded.

The company would handle billing and collections for Petersburg. The city will now advertise to see if there are any other bids and review the options over the next 45 days.

This as neighbors made it clear to [the] council they want to see even more changes, including when it comes to the mayor of the city.

"I'm not happy with the leadership. I have not spoken to him because I don't speak to people who record me without my knowledge and then try to use that against me," Sen. Rosalyn Dance said, referencing a saga earlier this year that found the lawmaker at odds with Mayor Howard Myers.

She is among the many neighbors calling for change. Now Petersburg plans to have a ballot referendum asking voters if they feel the public should elect Petersburg's future mayors, rather than the mayor being appointed by the council.

It comes as employees deal with pay cuts.

"Families are already on the brink of debt and have gone in debt - increased use of payday loans, check cashing entities, illegal entities for the sake of trying to keep [a] family stable," Marlow Jones of the Petersburg Fire Department said.

Now the public is pleading for progress in Petersburg.

"We don't have a government. With Bobb, [his] members report to him. He reports to council. When are you going to report to us? Enough is enough," said neighbor Linwood Christian.

Residents are also fed up with crime. Many addressed the council Tuesday night asking for former Chief John Dixon to be reinstated.

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