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Citizen says Carroll PSA should apologize

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A man whose investigation led to Carroll losing federal funds says the utilities authority owes citizens an apology for its mishandling of a sewer project.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Carroll Public Service Authority representatives owe citizens an apology for the handling of a mistake in the Fancy Gap sewer project, according to a resident who raised concerns about procedures used to funding agency Rural Development in that project.
After authority members blamed a private investigation by citizen Stephen Gregson “in major part” for the county losing about $280,000 in federal funding due to an overlooked environmental report, Gregson’s reaction was that authority members should “stop twisting the facts, to accept responsibility for their errors, to acknowledge that these errors may cost the county $280,000 (pending appeal), to look for changes that might prevent such errors from occurring in the future, and most important of all, apologize for their devious effort to hide this cost from the taxpayers at a time when their chairman was campaigning for reelection,” he said in a news release.
The letter from Rural Development asking the utilities authority for the reimbursement of funds used to build a sewer line on Joy Ranch Road was received in September, but did not come to light until November, Gregson noted. “Little did the citizens know of what was going on behind closed doors.”
Neither officials with the public service authority nor their counterparts on the county board of supervisors mentioned Rural Development’s issues with the Joy Ranch sewer extension or the federal agency’s recovery of the money spent on the extension, Gregson added.
“Nothing was disclosed to the public, a clear violation of the Code of Ethics requirement that ‘Members shall publicly share substantive information that is relevant to a matter under consideration by the Board of Supervisors or boards, commissions, authorities, and committees, which they may have received from sources outside of the public decision making process’” Gregson wrote.
He also wondered if these errors could have been avoided if elected county supervisors had not appointed themselves to also serve on the utilities authority. PSA Chairman Tom Littrell serves on both, for example.
“What if the county administrator was not both clerk of the board of supervisors and executive director of the PSA?” Gregson asked. “Effective government needs checks and balances and a variety of people to make decisions.”
Gregson finds blaming a citizen for the authority’s own errors unacceptable.
“The PSA owes the citizens of Carroll a complete and mindful apology along with a full independent investigation holding those responsible for restitution,” Gregson said. “In the end, I pray that Carroll taxpayers will not be burdened with having to pay for the mistakes of officials with their own agendas.”
Authority members have appealed Rural Development’s clawback of the funding, and believe they have a good chance of that being overturned, as the needed environmental report has been submitted to the federal agency.
Given the chance to react to Gregson’s statements, Littrell provided this to The Gazette:
“I stand by the facts as they were published accurately in The Gazette,” referring to a Nov. 20 article about the PSA appealing Rural Development’s clawback of the Joy Ranch Road sewer funds. “I am confident the citizens of Carroll County are able to draw their own conclusions based on the truth and can understand who is twisting what.
“The most important question to ask is: ‘How have the actions of Gregson benefitted Carroll County?’”