Sewer troubles land mayor in hot water
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Normally, a failed septic system doesn't warrant charges against the owner or result in their arrest. And, if it does, the arrest usually doesn't end up in the news.
It's different, however, when the person charged and arrested is the mayor of a local town.
Falkville Mayor Roy Coley turned himself in at the Morgan County jail last Friday on charges of violating state public health laws in connection with a failed sewer system. Coley and his wife, Janet, are owners of Falkville Chevron, located at the intersection of Interstate 65 and Buster Road.
The charge is a misdemeanor and the Chevron store remains open. Coley, who serves as his town's utility superintendent, was released after paying $300 bond.
The Morgan County Health Department is claiming the septic tank at Coley's business periodically failed over a period of a year. Efforts to reach the health department were unsuccessful.
Coley said the problems began shortly after the store opened in 2001. City sewer service is not available at the site, so a septic tank was installed. Because of the nature of the tank, Coley said he was told an engineer would have to be hired to handle the project.
Coley said he hired a Decatur engineer to handle the project, but noticed a failure in the system shortly after it was installed. This problem was fixed, Coley said, and approved by the health department.
Following a period of heavy rains last winter, Coley said he noticed the problem again.
The contractor who handled the initial work had gone out of business, he said, so he hired Dan Patterson of Digging Dan. When Patterson tried to get the permit for the job, health department officials told him an engineer would again have to be hired.
Engineer Lee Green of Hartselle was then hired for the work.
The delays in the repairs, Coley said, involved some miscommunication and the health department not reviewing the paperwork that was submitted.
"They (the health department) had the paperwork last Thursday but had me arrested on Friday," Coley said.
In August, the Morgan County Health Department gave Coley's store a health rating of 98 with no indication of any sewage problems. Coley also said he is the one who contacted the health department about the problems and has been working to get it repaired.
"We took some proactive steps to get this fixed," he said.
The charges, he said, are more political than health-related.
"We're pretty sure we know what this is all about. This is all about a political ploy. I wouldn't have been arrested if I wasn't the mayor," he said. "We're looking forward to our day in court."