CENTER POINT, Ala. (WBRC) - A community meeting at Woodside Condominiums in Center Point turned into a shouting match as landlords and tenants clashed over a delinquent water bill and threats from Birmingham Water Works to disconnect service to the entire complex.
Tension ran high during Tuesday night’s meeting at the property rental office.
HOA treasurer Ethel Sizemore and tenant of five years Derek Douglas shouted and pointed their fingers as a room tenants, landlords, social workers and outsiders looked on.
“We ain’t fixin’ pack up! Y’all fixin’ pack up and I mean that! I don’t care if I have to take over today, ” declared Douglas.
As of the end of August, according to HOA treasurer Ethel Sizemore, the water bill totaled $136,388.92.
Tenants were extremely angry as they claim to have paid rent which included water. However, Sizemore claimed multiple landlords pocketed the money instead of paying monthly HOA fees, which are used to cover the water bill and other utilities.
Sizemore claimed the complex brings in on average $5,000 a month in HOA fees, much less than the more than $20,000 the HOA should get, according to Sizemore. She said the $5,000 had to be spread across all utilities including the water bill, which usually runs about $11,000 per month.
“We don’t have the money to pay,” said Sizemore.
Sizemore said the last payment made on the water bill was $500 in May.
After shutting the water off for six days, Monday afternoon BWWB agreed to turn the water back on upon making a payment plan with Sizemore.
The community came together Tuesday night to figure out how to make the first payment, which was due in three days.
“We have no place to go. There’s nothing else we can do. Because we aren’t going to come up with $75,000 by Friday,” said owner and resident Mitchell Green.
Birmingham Water Works said they try diligently to get commercial properties to pay.
“We never want to shut anyone’s water off. Water is so important. It’s precious. You can’t live without it. And so, that’s never our intent,” said Communications Director Rick Jackson. “However, we do have customers who just never pay and it comes a time when we have to disconnect.”
Jackson said BWWB exhaust all measures to get commercial properties to pay on-time, including going door- to-door, sending certified letters and making payment arrangements.
Sizemore said she thought the meeting would end in donations and the bill being paid instead it ended abruptly with most storming out.
Frustrated and without enough money to keep the water on, Sizemore said her six years as property treasurer were over.
“I’m gonna quit right here. Because I’ve had enough,“ fumed Sizemore.
As for Douglas, he said he and several other tenants figured they had no choice but to move.
Green and at least one other tenant we spoke to said they planned to stay and fight for their homes.