At Wednesday’s Cape Fear Public Utility Authority meeting Chairman Gene Renzaglia threatened Chad O’Shields with police action if he did not refrain from speaking during the public speaking portion of the meeting. O’Shields, a long time advocate for uniform water rates, spoke at Wednesdays meeting about his concerns with the CFPUA’s newest rate structure.
He noted that commercial customers pay a uniform rate of $3.96 and customers with irrigation meters pay a uniform rate of $2.64, regardless of the amount of water used. O'Shields pointed out that only families were targeted with an inclining block rate, punished with rates as high as $5.28 for essential water use. He questioned how this could be justified.
After the presentation City Councilman Ron Sparks made heated comments directed at O’Shields and his presentations. Sparks also took issue with O’Shields repeated attendance of the CFPUA meetings. City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark countered Sparks’ tirade stating the public had a right to address the board.
With ample time left in the public speaking portion of the meeting, O’Shields began to address Councilman Sparks' comments. Chairman Renzaglia immediately interrupted, attempting to speak over O’Shields and disrupt his comments, eventually threatening him with removal from the building by law enforcement if he continued to speak. In spite of the Chairman’s interruptions and threats, O’Shields respectfully finished his remarks.
While Councilman Sparks’ comments are troubling enough, one questions by what authority Renzaglia, who is an appointed board member, not an elected official, garners the police power he threatened to use. In July of 2010 the CFPUA threatened customers with police enforcement if customers were found in violation of their mandatory water restrictions. It was later exposed they had no such authority to do so.
The meeting was recorded. You may view the public comments in the first few minutes of Part 1. Video is available here.