Posted on

‘People need to know’


West Memphis resident gets no good answers after water fiasco


Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, West Memphis resident Betty Callahan got a disturbing message.

“I own a building over on 23rd Street,” said Callahan. “And I get a call from a man who lives over there. He says, ‘Betty, there’s water coming out of the front door.’ I told them there can’t be. There’s not any water hooked up there. The meter’s been turned off for 10 years.”

But sure enough, the man was right. Callahan and her daughter went over to inspect the scene and they did, indeed, find that water was not only running out of the building but flooding the interior of the building.

“I didn’t understand how that could be,” she said. “I had the water shut off there years ago.”

So, how did this happen? Did the city fail to shut off the water? Did some unknown person turn it back on at the meter (something that can be done with a t-bar or even a pair of pliers in a pinch). If so, why? Were they squatting there? Using the building for nefarious purposes? Callahan needed answers.

“I knew since it was a holiday weekend, there wasn’t anything that could be done until that Tuesday, so I got my sonin- law to go over there with me and he shut the water off.”

After the holiday, she contacted the Water Department as the West Memphis Utility Department to try to get some answers to her many questions.

“As you can probably guess, it didn’t do any good,” Callahan explained. “All they could tell me was that anything from the meter to the street was their responsibility and anything from the meter to the building was mine. Which I already knew.”

But still the issue remained: what about the meter itself?

“I told them, it’s your meter,” she said. “Why was it not turned off? It was supposedly turned off years ago. What’s going on?”

Callahan’s concerns were not only for her own property but for others’ as well.

“There are a lot of absentee property owners in West Memphis,” she said. “They don’t even live in this state. How can they keep an eye on their property if they don’t even live here? They can’t just stop by and look at it once a week or whatever. How are they going to know if something like this happens?”

Dissatisfied with the response from the Utility Department, Callahan went to her city councilman.

“I spoke to Wayne Croom,” she said. “He looked into it and said the same thing: From the meter to the house, that’s on me. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why the water wasn’t shut off.”

Ultimately, she said, she knows there’s not much else she can do. She does, however, want to alert the rest of the community that if they own property and don’t regularly visit it, they too could be dealing with a similar disaster.

“People need to know about this,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with this and they might not know that if they think the water or the power is supposed to be shut off, it might not be.”

As for her plight, Callahan came up with a resolution of her own.

“I told them, come pull the meter,” she said. “Then, I won’t have to worry about it. They asked me, ‘Are you sure, because if you want one put back in, it’s a $750 charge.’ I told them that was just fine. I’m not going to have the water turned on over there ever again.”

Ultimately, the old adage is true. You can’t fight City Hall. But you can at least let the public know about the battle.

Scroll Up