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Sewer customer complaints aren't enough to push legislation through State Senate

Tannehill Sewer System in Tuscaloosa Co

A rising tide of customer complaints over sewer rates in Lake View wasn't enough to get the state legislature to act on a bill giving voters a voice. While Representative Rich Wingo's bill passed the house, it died in the State Senate.

The measure would have put Tannehill Sewer System in Tuscaloosa County under Public Service Commission regulation if approved by voters. Wingo says after years of complaints it was time for ratepayers to decide whether they wanted the PSC to oversee the private system run by Michael White. Customers have complained about rates three to four times higher than other systems and fees unparalleled in the region. The base sewer rate is $100 a month. Water is billed separately.

While the local delegation in the senate approved of the measure, it was then sent to a committee that doesn't even meet in the final days of the session. That effectively killed the bill. Senator Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa blamed the failure in the senate on the leadership.

We asked who he meant by "the leadership" and he responded the Pro Tem. ABC3340 News attempted to contact Pro Tem Del Marsh to find out why he would stand in the way of legislation approved by the local delegation of Tuscaloosa County. We were unable to reach him by news time, but will continue to press for answers.

Critics of the sewer system operations say the board which is now in charge of overseeing rates and customer service known as the GUSC Board (Governmental Utility Services Corporation) is failing in every respect to do its job. System owner Mike White has declined our requests for an interview. Members of the GUSC Board have declined to be interviewed as well.

Lake View's Attorney concluded in a written report: "From all reviews of minutes and other documents, the GUSC Board has been virtually controlled by Mr. White, who likewise owns the service providing entity."

An investigation by ABC3340 News in February exposed questionable operations by the GUSC Board. That included failures to follow the law when it came to public meeting notifications and public records requests.

Since our reports, the GUSC has appointed a new president who is not a board member. She has promised more transparency but was unable to answer even simple questions such as how many homeowners the Tannehill Sewer System serves.

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