Congress and the Department of Justice are making it a point to determine the main issues with Jackson, Mississippi’s ongoing water crisis. However, former Jackson lawmaker De’Keither Stamps feels like a $90 million deal with international conglomerate Siemens was supposed to prevent things from getting this bad in the first place, CBS News reports.
About ten years ago, the city signed a deal with Siemens with all sorts of promises. The company mentioned it would change its metering and billing systems, upgrade Jackson’s water facilities, and set up the city so that disasters that happened a few months ago wouldn’t. That sounds great. Stamps acknowledged that Siemens’s sales pitch said, “As the system performs, it will pay for itself.”
Well, it didn’t work. First, Jackson had to take out a loan to pay the cost upfront. Soon, the water meters weren’t working, meaning higher bills for citizens. Problems with the computer systems often resulted in people getting bills for thousands of dollars. Stamps was entirely against the deal.
“I know how to look at budgets, at maintenance costs, look at operation costs, and break it down, and so I looked at this and said, ‘Well, this is not gonna be able to flesh out,’” Stamps said. “Everything went wrong.”
There are also more problems with the loan itself. The city of Jackson sued Siemens and its subcontractors, stating all the breakdowns resulted from “a massive fraud orchestrated by Siemens” that “caused more than $450 million in losses to Jackson.” Siemens and its subcontractors had agreed to settle with the city without admitting any wrongdoing and repaid the $90 million.
Not only does Stamps point out that $90 million isn’t enough to cover the cost of repairs needed, the original loan has an average 6% interest rate. Jackson, Mississippi, will be paying on that loan until 2040. Now, the people of Jackson are left with no solutions to a problem with debt attached that should already be fixed.