Como resident frustrated with bill

Published 11:37 am Saturday, October 13, 2018

By Myra Bean

The board of aldermen in Como this week heard from a town resident who was disputing a $4,100 bill given to him by Panola County Supervisor James Birge after the supervisor put in a water meter at this house and submitted the bill to the town clerk, but later removed from the claims docket and sent to the resident.

Alan Thorpe, who lives at 102 East Oak Ave. in Como,  approached the board about a bill he received for the placement of a water spigot and an extra meter on his property.

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He received a bill for $4,100 from  Supervisor Birge, who had done the work through his private plumbing business. The problem stems from the fact that Thorpe was under the impression the city was going to pay for the work. Birge has often in the past billed the town for various plumbing work, most repairs of water leaks and installing new lines.

Thorpe said he went to City Hall to ask about getting a spigot put on his property. Thorpe wanted to water some greenery at the edge of his property to do his part in keeping the neighborhood beautiful without running a hose that far.

Two different stories were presented at the Tuesday October board meeting.

Thorpe said when he talked to the clerk about getting a spigot put in, she went to the back room of City Hall and got Birge.

City Clerk Alice Houston refuted Thorpe, saying he did not tell the real story, and said Birge was standing inside the front of the building. Then Birge approached Thorpe and they went outside to talk.

It was never said what Thorpe and Birge talked about outside.

Thorpe told the board, “James and I had an understanding the town was going to pay for the work.”

Birge did the work and presented the bill to the city to be paid. The bill showed up on the docket the next month, but then it was taken off. Birge then presented the bill to Thorpe who then brought the matter to the Board.

Board attorney Ravonda Griffin addressed the matter at the request of Mayor Everett Hill.

“Here’s your problem,” Griffin said. “This board is in a position that they are the fiduciaries of the town’s money. It would be an unlawful donation on the part of the town. They don’t have the authority to pay for anything on your private property.”

Back in August, the details of what Thorpe had done were not discussed, but it was obvious over the last two months they had done some research.

Board members asked if this was a second meter and Thorpe responded it was. This meter did not go to a house.

Alderman-at-large John Walton said if the city had authorized it, a meter would have been provided.

Hill asked if there was an approval in the minutes for this work and Houston said no. Thorpe had not come before the board to request aid.

Thorpe countered that is why he went to City Hall to ask what to do, and they sent Birge to him.

In the end, Griffin told Thorpe this was a civil matter between him and Birge.

Hill questioned Birge as to whether anyone at City Hall gave him permission to do the work and he replied very quietly, “No one gave me permission.”

Thorpe said Birge has kept coming to him for money, saying he needed it bad, and Thorpe gave him $1,500. Thorpe asked the town to help him out and pay the rest of the $2,500 balance. Any further action about the matter will be reported.