- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Five people have been fired in an investigation that has turned up 1,700 illegal water connections in Jackson, says Public Works Director Kishia Powell.

More dismissals are likely, Powell said Friday.

The city’s projected water and sewer revenue was about $10.6 million below what was budgeted for the last fiscal year, Powell said.

“There is so much theft at this point,” she told the City Council. However, she said theft is not the only reason for the shortfall, The Clarion-Ledger reported (https://on.thec-l.com/1Jm9Lgn).

She did not say how much of the shortfall might be caused by theft.

The five workers were dismissed Friday. On Tuesday, city officials said two workers had been arrested, and one was accused of stealing $14,000 worth of water since 2008.

Powell and Mayor Tony Yarber have said 20 to 30 other workers are being investigated.

A number of employees in the water/sewer billing office were handling their own accounts, Powell said Friday.

“That should never happen by policy,” she said.

Peiffer Brandt of Rafetelis Financial Consultants, hired by the city to study a $90 million Siemens contract and water department issues, said he recommending a rate hike for the budget year starting Oct. 1. It’s too late for one this year, he said.

That would be unfair to “people who play by the rules,” said Councilman Ashby Foote.

Hotel owner Ray Patel said, “Water rates are too high now; if you raise rates, you could see a lot of hotels shutting down.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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