Originally created 07/11/98

Are watering citations enforceable?



The water patrol will keep on rolling at night, but is their bark worse than their bite?

Some officials say the proposed citations won't stand up in court, but they can't afford to say so because everyone would start watering and run the tanks dry. Others are just begging residents not to pull the plug out of the overtaxed reservoirs.

"If we back down at this point, as far as north of Gordon Highway goes, we impact the crisis," said Commissioner Moses Todd. "I don't think we have a crisis south of Gordon Highway."

Mr. Todd said the truth is the proposed citations won't stand up in court unless Mayor Larry Sconyers first declares the city is in a state of emergency.

"What ordinance are they writing citations under?" he asked. "One way to assure we have the authority is for the mayor to call a state of emergency. I think he should have done it a week and a half ago, especially when only one turbine was pumping and the reservoir was falling several inches a day."

Mr. Hicks and City Attorney Jim Wall denied that the threat of citations is a charade.

Mr. Wall said the various water restrictions and bans of recent weeks can be enforced through city ordinance.

"It's a question of a matter of proof insofar as the notice to people of the regulations that were in effect at that time," Mr. Wall said.

"We're not going to carry a case to court unless we feel like we've got valid proof to uphold it," he added.

Mayor Sconyers said there's a "good possibility" city officials will look at dropping the list of people who have been found watering their yards.

"I would hate to fine anybody that didn't get the message," he said. "I think we can do something to help those folks."

Thursday night, so many residents watered their lawns despite the new ban, levels in water tanks on Washington and Wheeler roads and in the city's clear wells on Highland Avenue dropped drastically.

Levels in the clear wells, which hold water ready for use, dropped to 6 feet, 6 inches about 2 a.m. Friday, according to a memo from Utilities Department Director Max Hicks to Mayor Larry Sconyers.

"We don't like for them to get below 7 feet or 7-and-a-half feet. We don't even like for them to get down to that," Mr. Hicks said. "Then is when we begin to get uncomfortable because if things change real quick and it snatches it on down real quick, then you've got a problem."