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Water Board gets clean bill of health

William &uot;Billy&uot; Hicks didn’t exactly jump up and down and shout &uot;I told you! I told you!&uot; when he got the news.

But the chairman of the Selma Waterworks and Sewer Board probably felt like it.

The board, which has received its share of criticism in recent months, got a clean bill of health Monday after receiving the results of its latest audit, covering the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2002.

The audit was conducted by Jamison, Money, Farmer and Company of Tuscaloosa, which calls several water boards around the state its clients.

The board posted a net loss of $318,967 for the year. That’s up from a net loss of $98,605 the previous year.

The board was roundly criticized in some quarters for increasing rates in 2002, the first such increase in four years, according to Hicks. The increase is needed, in large part, to offset planned improvements to the system’s facilities.

The rate increase is expected to help the board reverse the losses of the last two years and post a profit this year. The board is hardly strapped for cash, however. There is slightly more than $3 million cash on hand, thanks largely to a $4 million bond issued in October 2001. That money is considered restricted assets to be spent for capital improvements.

Humber praised the board’s staff for their cooperation during the audit. &uot;Your staff was very responsive to our requests for information,&uot; he told board members. &uot;We were very impressed. We commend you for that.&uot;

Dianne Rumanek, another CPA who assisted with the audit, added, &uot;Your documentation was excellent. The controls that you have in place are excellent. There was no indication whatsoever that money wasn’t being deposited or bills weren’t being paid.&uot;

Humber also pointed to the board’s ratio of current assets to current liabilities, which is 1.23 to 1. &uot;Anything above one to one is good,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s a strong indicator of your ability to pay your bills on time.&uot;

The audit concluded that the board had conformed to all generally accepted accounting principles for the period covered, including the letting and accepting of bids for work to be performed.

Humber said that, if anything, the board had been too lenient in dealing with those customers who fell behind on their bills and suggested &uot;a more businesslike approach to delinquent accounts.&uot;

The audit did not address the ongoing controversy over board salaries. In November, the Alabama Ethics Commission referred a complaint to the state attorney general for investigation of possible criminal misconduct involving the salaries paid to board members Hicks, Marvin Melton and Glenn Sexton. The attorney general has not reached any decision whether to pursue charges in that case.

Hicks proclaimed himself satisfied with the results of the audit.

Water board member and Selma City Councilman Sam Randolph has been one of the board’s harshest critics, denouncing the rate hike and accusing the board of meeting without notifying him.

Randolph arrived some 30 minutes late for the meeting Monday. Upon entering the meeting, he interrupted the proceedings by loudly asking, &uot;Was I notified of this meeting?&uot;

Randolph stayed seven minutes, then interrupted the meeting again to leave as Humber and Rumanek did their best not to notice the family squabble going on around them. Hicks later confirmed that all members of the board had been notified of the meeting to discuss the audit.