Article Comment 

Our view: This land purchase stinks




Something smells here. 


Columbus Light and Water''s decision to pay $996,000 for 118 acres of property near Pickensville Road and Shady Lane seems mighty hasty -- and mighty expensive. 


The land would be used to spread sludge -- treated sewage -- that''s dredged out of CL&W''s storage lagoons. 


It would seem the lagoons must be filled to the brim, but that isn''t so. 


In 2009, CL&W''s raised the levees on its three storage lagoons just south of Columbus, at a cost of $368,000. The work was supposed to take care of sewage treatment and storage for the next 20 years. 


Last week, the board voted to buy the land from Russell Sheffield, of Sheffield Construction. Board members David Shelton, Brandy Gardner and Jabari O. Edwards voted for the land purchase, with Tom Sneed and Jimmy Graham voting against it. 


The board''s action is even more suspect considering that it had a cheaper bid, $450,000 for 115 acres owned by Ronnie and Donna West, of West Brothers Construction. 


While the West property needed work such as timber removal and wetlands mitigation, the estimate would still have been less than the near-$1 million price tag on the Sheffield property. 


And, the Wests offered to clear the land for free, if they could keep the proceeds from the timber on the property. 


Shelton had been pushing to buy the Sheffield property. He had earlier made a motion to pay $1.18 million for it. 


The whole episode calls into question the decision-making of the board, and its stewardship of CL&W funds. Only weeks ago, CL&W manager Todd Gale said he was warning customers that energy bills could rise as much as 10 percent over the coming year, which he blames on a Tennessee Valley Authority fuel surcharge. Maybe we''re comparing apples to oranges here. But watching the board make an unnecessary land purchase -- and paying twice as much for it as they could have -- doesn''t sit right, all things considered. 


We agree that the city needs a long-term plan to treat and store its sewage waste. But the only thing wasted here was money, not sewage. 






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Reader Comments

Article Comment bill wells commented at 10/26/2010 5:51:00 PM:

Greetings....Read your editorial about the CL&W "stinky" land deal; I agree wholeheartedly with you and think an investigation should be initiated. In my OPINION (note that this is an opinion, not an accusation), there is a Den of Thieves involved in this transaction. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the difference between $996,000 and $475,000 is $521,000, and it ain't gonna take even CLOSE to that amount of do whatever is required as far as permits, land clearance, etc. I don't know who is the "daddy" of what I suspect is a crooked scheme, but I do know that I am going to see if I can get some interest from the State of Mississippi to look into it. This sort of thing has been going on at the local, state, and national level for far too long; next Tuesday's election will be a good start but ONLY a start.


Article Comment jb commented at 10/27/2010 8:39:00 PM:

Who does the checks and balances for Columbus Light & Water Department? It seems very conveniant that Mr. Sheffield already had his land cleared, and EPA approved. Who goes around doing something like that to their land? Maybe he had a heads up! Also the CL&W dept. has installed thousands and thousands of feet of fiber optic for communication. Why would they run this fiber to a local businessman at two of his locations? This of course whould be Ralph McClain, who by the way is Todd Gail's father in-law, while Todd Gail is the general manager of CL&W. Ralph McClain's buildings are their old office on Lehmberg and his other offices are on Shoney dr.. Which is his communication company, Teletech. Teletech also sold, installed, and maintains all the radio and GPS equipment for all of CL&W's vehicles. How convienent is that? Just some more of taht good ole boy dealings at work. All this and the rate payers of Col. are getting a rate increase.


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