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Cherry Tree water district says board members are not paying utility bills or employees

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Posted at 5:57 PM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 07:46:07-04

Residents in the southern part of Adair county are furious after they said their water company, Cherry Tree Water, is refusing to pay its bills. 
 
Employees for the company are up in arms as well saying they haven’t received a paycheck in over two weeks. 
 
There was a lot of bustle at the Cherry Tree grocery store on Tuesday, but it wasn’t the usual chatter.
 
“I was without water for 8 days no water where I lived,” one resident said.
 
People in the Cherry Tree water district are angry, and fed up with local board members in charge of paying the district’s water bills. 
 
“The treasurer will not talk openly.” Bill Rust, a Cherry Tree water customer said. “She wants to keep all of her meetings secret. They whisper to each other in an open meeting. When we ask them to speak up they won’t do it.”
 
And for Kay Bolin, owner of the Cherry Tree grocery store, having water means her business will thrive. 
 
“I have a business here to run,’ Bolin said. “If I don’t have water my livelihood is gone.” 
 
Bolin said she’s not about to let someone take that away. 
 
“These board members are cheating us out of what’s rightfully ours,” she said.
 
The Cherry Tree Rural Water District is a water utility company in Stilwell. Its operations are overseen by a board. The board is in charge of taking customers money and using it to pay the bills due to the city of Stilwell, which provides the water. 
 
Cherry Tree water district manager, Cameron Bennett is blowing the whistle on actions he considers unjust.
 
“The bills have not been paid here for the last month,” Bennett said.
 
He said members are paying their water bills, but the money sits in the bank. Bennett said board members are supposed to use that money to pay off vendors and pay employees.  
 
“She refused to sign the checks,” Bennett said of one of the board members. “[She] said she wouldn’t sign anything.”
 
Cherry Tree members said they are afraid if the bills aren’t paid soon, they’ll be without a life source, water. However, Bennett assures customers that even though bills aren’t being paid, the city of Stilwell has graciously agreed to not shut off the water. He said although this is generous, it isn’t sustainable or fair for the city of Stilwell. He said action needs to be taken by the board to sort this out and pay employees.
 
“If they don’t get paid then i’m going to have to borrow from other places until they get a board in here that wants to work right,” Bennett said.
 
Until then, Cherry Tree Rural Water employees are working for free, fixing leaks and such so citizens won’t be without water.
 
Meanwhile, the question remains, Why won’t board members sign the checks? 2 Works for You went to the board to find out.
 
“Two signatures need to sign paychecks or to sign any checks with the district,” Jessica Johnston, the board treasurer said.
 
Johnston said the board consists of 5 members, but three quit.
 
“We have the chairman, vice chairman and treasurer on the bank account to sign,” Johnston said.
 
She said the vice chairman and chairman both formally resigned their positions, leaving just her to sign checks.
 
“Our bylaws state we’ve got to have another signature,” she said.
 
Johnston also said she wishes she could help, but the issue is out of her hands. She said in order to fix the problem, new board members must be appointed, however no one wants the job.
 
The Cherry Tree water district has called a special meeting on Thursday at 6 o’clock to discuss the issue with board members and get things resolved.
 

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