Century Declares Emergency, Approves $4,750 No Bid Proposal To Replace Four Gas Meters

August 8, 2019

The Century Town Council has declared that an emergency exists and approved a no-bid proposal presented by their new consultant to replace gas meters at four businesses.

The town will spend $4,750 plus $35 an hour for a consultant to replace the meters with an internal bypass and pressure test ports at the Century Coin Laundry and Self Storage, the Southern Panhandle Cafe, Food Giant and the Sunrise Donut Shop. Eddy handed the proposal to the council just minutes before their vote.

“The laundromat’s meter is not reading at all. It’s flowing gas, but it’s not reading. So that is an emergency,” said consultant Buz Eddy. “The same with the others, because I took them personally to these locations cause there were questions concerning these. Once we redo them, it’s going to increase that revenue in those areas significantly.” He said the $1,440 replacement of the laundromat meter would result in a financial return for the town in 2-3 months.

Mayor Henry Hawkins said the laundromat’s last two gas bills have been $400.

NorthEscambia.com made a public records request for the laundromat’s 2019 natural gas billing and usage history on Tuesday, but that request had not been fulfilled by the close of business Wednesday.

Eddy requested the town council declare that an emergency existed “in an abundance of caution” and “if any bid procedures are applicable to waive those bidding procedures” for the purpose awarding the contract to G.P.’s Gas Appliance Repair and Piping, LLC in Baker and $35 an hour to Vernon Prather for an unspecified number of hours. Prather is the former assistant city manager in Gulf Breeze and also served as Gulf Breeze public service director.

Eddy said no quotes or bids were obtained from any other company.

“We found that the prices, just evaluating the prices against what other utilities have paid for similar efforts are comparable and to take the time to bid out or even inquire about quotes, we would have those meters inoperable for that period of  time. It’s just one of those things that having an expert come in and tell you I’ve contact someone that’s competent, they can do the work, they are available immediately, time is of the essence.

Eddy said the job is beyond the capabilities of the current town staff because it requires complete rebuilding of the “gas meter set”.

“Why is the gas superintendent that is being paid to do it not doing it? He was not doing it fast enough. So basically we as a council, as a governing body, we have to rectify this problem,” council member Luis Gomez (pictured left) said.

“This is the first opportunity we’ve had all the facts together and the meter readings assembled and the diagnosis has been done on the problem. Previously I was not here. I don’t know what the facts were. Nobody knows that the facts were.  Now we know,  and we’re ready to move forward and this is the right action to take,” Eddy said.

Council President Ann Brooks said the four problematic meters were first brought to the council’s attention at a budget workshop on August 1 “and that’s when the council decided to get a bid”.

“I think the bidding law is something we need to pay attention to, so the next step is that we were going to look at prices for having the other meters installed. We need to make sure, because that won’t be an emergency,” Brooks said.

The motion to declare an emergency, bypass any bidding procedure and award the contract passed the council unanimously.

The contract did not include the actual meters because the town has had the new meters needed in stock since February. The town purchased 500 new residential natural gas meters and 52 new commercial meters months ago in an effort to increase billing accuracy and revenue.

Gas Superintendent Wally Kellett said in mid-July that only 40 of the residential meters had been installed, and none of the commercial meters were installed.

The council has required Kellett to attend all of their meetings and update the status of his department, but he’s missed numerous meetings with no public explanation. At Monday night’s council meeting, no reason was given for Kellett’s absence, and Hawkins could only say “40-plus” meters had been installed because he did not know the actual number since Kellett’s last update to the council on July 15.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


48 Responses to “Century Declares Emergency, Approves $4,750 No Bid Proposal To Replace Four Gas Meters”

  1. Bg on August 11th, 2019 9:59 pm

    Does anybody see it getting better in the near future.

  2. Dark matter and energy on August 10th, 2019 6:36 pm

    Wow! Criticism of the town’s elected officials. Near, if not indeed, slander against city staff. Near accusations of fraud against professionals brought into a a situation of public neglect, incompetence, etc.

    I just cannot understand why the actual residents of Century are not willing to get a petition drive going to have a referendum to dissolve the government of Century. In reading the comments below, and so many articles in NE.com, it would seem everyone is upset with every aspect of this municipality. Yet, the only action taken by Century’s citizens is just talk.

    If a referendum passes, it’s over. If it fails to pass, and the local government survives the vote, then a way forward is going to have to be developed.

    After years of reading this, I am beginning to think Century’s citizens are better at complaining about their municipality than actually working with the local government to enable its entry into a very competitive world in order to improve the quality of life for its own people.

  3. Florida logger on August 10th, 2019 10:52 am

    He sitting there thinking I wonder if they know that I’m turning century into a third world country.

  4. Shay on August 10th, 2019 12:31 am

    So forego the bidding process and hire one of your ex co workers? Yeah that doesn’t seem fishy at all.

    Why does Kellett still have a job? If I didn’t do my job I’d be fired. He doesn’t do anything that he is supposed to do which is btw his job. He must have dirt on somebody or know where the bodies are buried. Get rid of everybody including the gulf breeze guy and start over or let the County take over. Throwing good money after bad and for what? Another bill?

  5. Florida logger on August 9th, 2019 10:58 pm

    Look at the mayor Hawkins face and scratch his head I know he thinking

  6. Chelleepea on August 9th, 2019 11:31 am

    ****Why are the employees of the city not changing the meters? ****

    Well….as far as I understand it, they’ve had these meters since February and they’ve changed out about 40 (residential). According to the superintendent they have to run a gas department and don’t have enough time. I guess they’ll get them in when they can.

    My opinion …..but other than gas leaks…changing out the meters should be top priority and you make time. But that’s just me on the outside looking in. It will be great if the gas department would take the lead on this and it will save TOC some money but …….

  7. Bobff on August 9th, 2019 9:47 am

    Some times you just cant fix stupid.

  8. retired on August 9th, 2019 9:19 am


  9. Rasheed Jackson on August 9th, 2019 7:03 am

    Why are the employees of the city not changing the meters? If Gas Appliance Repair and Piping is doing the work what is Prather’s role? At $35 dollars an hour for an unspecified amount of time sounds to me like an open check book for Mr. Prather. Sounds to me like Ole Eddy has hoodwinked the town council. Time to cut ties with Eddy and move on before he gets the town in even more trouble with his cronyism.

  10. Truthbeknown on August 9th, 2019 2:18 am

    To skeptical.. I agree with you 100%. The billing clerk and the meter reader should be competent enough in their jobs. To see any meter reading discrepancies for all of the customers.That is their job. Meter readings and Bills! Sounds pretty darn simple to me. It’s obvious everyone from the Mayor down to the council are vividly aware. . whe, and councilmembers know all about the billing clerk. She Has been blatantly insubordinate. Has anyone attempt to make her do her Job. Why is it that she still has a job? Isn’t that issue with the meters and customers not being on the Town customer to pay bills one of the main reasons the town is/has losing so much money? There must be a Load of secrets that people are holding over each other’s heads at that place. Town Clerk, Kim Godwin can’t stay out of Odom’s Bar Long enough to do her job. Does The Mayor or Buzz lightyear know what she is slithering up… she was at Odom’s bar last night with a man from City Services out of Georgia )Other than everyone wondering what she even does for all the money that she makes, why is she meeting with this manade their emergency motion to get rid of the employees that have caused mess. The gas superintendent is either extremely lazy or no more qualified than a would one legged dog. Most likely both. the workers in the gas department are 100% capable of doing this emergency job. They’ve been taking care of our town for years. Buzz light year decided to come and the town off while padding his friends pockets along the way!!! Mayor although he may be able to do some things without Council approval,

  11. Einstein on August 8th, 2019 11:13 pm

    Of course the council is aware of the billing problem. Everyone half way reading is aware. The people paid to be doing the billing should be doing the billing., right? Like pay for gas coming in bill for gas going out. What are we missing. Are you saying they condone giving free service to some? If so who is going to report fraud waste and abuse? If you know and are a part of it, that is being an accomplish to theft.

  12. My two cents on August 8th, 2019 9:16 pm

    The problem is people (customers) are not being set up to get a utility bill. Which is the billing clerk position to be doing. The gas department has no control over the billing clerk not doing their job, and it puts a strain on them when they are doing their job and others aren’t doing theirs. Also the gas department could have put those meters in but seems like they are wanting contractors to come in and do the work when the town has employees to do that job. Seems to me like they are wanting contractors to come in and do the work of the town employees which are capable of doing it if some would do their job

    Just my opinion on this

  13. ConcernedCitizen on August 8th, 2019 8:30 pm

    It’s time for a WISE mayor!!!

  14. Just me on August 8th, 2019 8:20 pm

    To Einstein….the council is well aware of this. But like all other things, they aren’t telling you this. The council is aware of the billing issues and problems.

  15. William Reynolds on August 8th, 2019 7:38 pm

    >>TY William. With EREC, do they run the gas as well?

    Not natural gas…Bratt and Walnut Hill are actually in the Town of Century’s franchise area, but they have *very* few customers.

    At one time, EREC was part of Cooperative Propane and sold propane, but Cooperative was sold to Thompson Gas in 2011.

  16. einstein on August 8th, 2019 7:38 pm

    Well why didn’t you install them– just me? Why didn’t you ensure the billing was correct and meters record flow? why didn’t supervisor report to council..even email is a thing..

  17. Just me on August 8th, 2019 7:17 pm

    TY William. With EREC, do they run the gas as well?

  18. William Reynolds on August 8th, 2019 7:10 pm

    >>>EREC is an electric company. We are talking about gas and water here

    EREC owns and operates The Walnut HIll Water Works and the Bratt-Davisville Water System.

  19. Just me on August 8th, 2019 6:44 pm

    Let me start by setting the record straight. The gas department is more than CAPABLE of installing 4 meters. The problem is the billing process, not the gas field employees. Also, just an FYI for all you Einsteins: EREC is an electric company. We are talking about gas and water here, so selling it to them is not an option.

  20. X on August 8th, 2019 6:23 pm

    A petition of 20% of the register voters can compel the Florida auditor general to perform an operational audit of the town.

    Even a council person on their own can have a petition in their office that about 60 people can sign and get the operations of the town on track. Or either a top down order may be forthcoming. This is not going away.

    The council or the Mayor can also ask for this. Why don’t they to ensure good governance?


    Mike Hill could ask for this but he leaves emails unanswered. Worthless so far in this endeavor.

    Mr Eddy, you know this also.

  21. X on August 8th, 2019 5:06 pm

    I think several employees should be replaced, starting with the gas department superintendent and billing people. There is no excuse to have allowed this to go on.

    Council should also declare a financial emergency and ask for an operational audit via JLAC to the FLAUGEN.


  22. Brian Barrow on August 8th, 2019 4:20 pm

    Freedom of speech allowed. Its not cool to over look the real problems. Unqualified City employee

  23. Scott barrow on August 8th, 2019 4:16 pm

    It a community survice but I don’t know if $400.00 is the thing to be saying. Ask how many people use the place.

  24. Well on August 8th, 2019 3:43 pm

    At least that’s 4 meters that will be working and getting billed.

    Ok, so 4 meters working. Billing may still be questionable.

  25. X on August 8th, 2019 3:27 pm

    Seems like good news.

  26. Skeptic on August 8th, 2019 3:13 pm

    @Really? and Ivey Street Ok… you’re right.

    I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt… but they really could have gotten several prices quickly, I’m sure. And also, when they mentioned that the gas company would be completely rebuilding the complete meter set, I wasn’t thinking about it that all that would all be above-ground… still, it must be a decent amount of work if it is beyond the capabilities of the gas department. Either that, or Wally and the whole bunch need to be fired and find some people who know what they’re doing.

    Like I said, I’m just trying to give them one more chance… lol

  27. BIG JOHN on August 8th, 2019 2:30 pm


  28. Really? on August 8th, 2019 2:19 pm

    Sow what will the consultant do at $35 an hour? The Baker gas company is doing the install and the WORK. Let me guess, this guy will stand around at $35/hr in the shade supervising?

    And by the way “Skeptic” — you don’t dig up a gas meter. It’s above ground. You take a pipe wrench, undo two pipes and put the other one in. Any backyard Bob could do it, other than you have to be certified so you know not to light up a cigarette. #BOOM

  29. Ivey Street on August 8th, 2019 2:16 pm

    Agree…a good move not to go by the regular advertised bid process. But in an emergency, you can quickly get multiple phone or email quotes from similar contractors or contractors on the state or some local bid list. If you have time to call/email one contractor and provide the info so they can make a bid, you can call/email three, or four, or five. Not just your friend.

  30. Skeptic on August 8th, 2019 12:18 pm

    I understand this move, calling it an emergency and not putting it out for bids. Usually I would be skeptical about trying to work around the system and award jobs with no bid… but $1,440 sounds reasonable for digging up and replacing a gas meter…

    If they were to put it out for bids, they would have to have someone draw up all the specs and rules of the bid, (cost money, takes time), then they would have to advertise the job (cost money, takes time). After that, they take the bids in and the counsel reviews them… (takes time). Then finally the bid will be awarded to a contractor, who then has to schedule it and finally get to work on it. (More time)

    At $1,440 a piece, maybe they could get a bid at $1,200 a piece and award the bid to a cheaper company to do it, who may or may not be qualified… They’d save a few hundred dollars, most of which would already have been eaten up by admin costs of putting this out for bids, and they would also lose the revenue they could have been getting for the next several months, which could add up to thousands.

    Century needs money by the weekend. This should have been fixed years ago, but it’s down to the make or break stage. I’m usually one of the ones on here, amazed by the circus, but I think this is actually a good move.

  31. Resident on August 8th, 2019 11:37 am

    Once again employees not doing their jobs. If a meter is showing no consumption the meter reader and the billing clerk should both know this and the meter should be changed out immediately. They both should be fired along with the gas supervisor

  32. chris on August 8th, 2019 10:58 am

    How convenient that the ONLY entity called is Eddy’s good friend from GB. Seems like Century got another pawn to do their work for them. It’s amazing that the state or the county hasn’t stepped in yet.

  33. sam on August 8th, 2019 10:54 am

    so NOW it’s an emergency? this town needs a reboot.

  34. Bob on August 8th, 2019 10:26 am

    Think about it.

    Lets say that TOC brings in “experts” to fix all these problems. Lets say all the problems get fixed. You still have idiots running the city and in the long term the city will be in the same situation again. Isnt part of the process of fixing the town of Century include a new Mayor and a new board???

  35. NativeTongue on August 8th, 2019 10:25 am

    If the laundromat meters weren’t reading “at all” how did the meter reader determine a $400 bill was necessary for the business?

    How did it take Eddy 5 minutes to figure out which meters weren’t working but the superintendent couldn’t figure it out in years?

    Sounds like the superintendent and current meter readers need to find new jobs as they obviously haven’t been doing their current jobs with any sense of urgency or integrity.

    As for no bid jobs – Nope. You’re a government entity with emergencies happening. Call 3 local companies, get their job quote with a deadline to submit by Friday COB and then get the meter replaced immediately.

    Even if Eddy’s preferred company happens to be the lowest priced it would look better than just “here give my buddy a call”.

  36. Chelleepea on August 8th, 2019 10:07 am

    @skeptical . …. I assume the city is just averaging the bill from previous readings, whenever that was, to bill the laundry …… makes you wonder why the meter reader can’t notice if the meter is running or not or why nobody goes around to check the meters periodically as part of their maintenance routine. There’s so many ways the problem could have been detected earlier. First…the meter reader, second…..the billing clerk could notice the meter readings have been the same)……third….regular maintenance. Where’s Wally?

  37. IMHO on August 8th, 2019 9:45 am

    A situation that’s existed for years is not an emergency. Looks like Mr Eddy will fit right in….smh

  38. David on August 8th, 2019 9:06 am

    The mayor is trying to detract the fact that (how did the whole town) get the way it is…replace the mayor and disolve the township. It’s that easy

  39. fisherman on August 8th, 2019 8:59 am

    I will go out on a limb and say when the Century Coin Laundry gets their first gas bill after new meter is installed they will not be able to pay it and shut the doors.

  40. retired on August 8th, 2019 8:45 am

    take the emergency installs out of ,Gas Superintendent, Wally Kellett paycheck.

  41. Clay on August 8th, 2019 8:44 am

    @skeptical The $400 bills could have been a minimum commercial charge. Utilities like gas and water invoice minimum charges even if there is no consumption.

  42. Jason Ward on August 8th, 2019 8:32 am

    $400 a month for a laundry matt. I got a feeling that one will pay for itself in one month

  43. Jason Ward on August 8th, 2019 8:28 am

    I would think $1000 for a commercial gas meter is very reasonable, most of the time u pay through the nose for a rush job. Don’t the EREC get more for a less complicated water meter. The important thing is the turn around of the Century Gas Co. has hopefully began. I don’t know why it took someone from Gulf Breeze to tell them what to do, but the important thing is there finely fixing it

  44. skeptical on August 8th, 2019 8:27 am

    Eddy said the laundromats were not reading ” at all.” Seems a tad bit over dramatic since the last two bills have been $400. If the meters are not reading at all, how do you explain the bill for $400? There is a saying in the construction industry….”Where there is chaos, there is money to be made!” I do hope that Century turns it around for the residents’ sake….but, question everything!!!

  45. Ruth on August 8th, 2019 8:23 am

    I am shocked that any of the board is still in power! But then, if you allow me to get free gas, free water and other free services, and refuse to show up at meetings and explain yourself, I will let you keep your overpaid position. UNREAL!

  46. Oversight on August 8th, 2019 7:10 am

    Bypass bid procedures for Eddy’s buddies to get paid. You got to love this stuff. Remember this Council, when you rush and want it really bad, you’ll get really bad. That being results.

  47. Resident on August 8th, 2019 7:09 am

    Well don’t the mayor and Buz look cozy. Two peas in a pod. Heck let’s just break the bid laws together like besties. We’ll get matching Gulf Breeze tattoos next and award another contract to our friends.

  48. Jason on August 8th, 2019 6:50 am

    Let me pop some popcorn and stand by to read the forthcoming comments……

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) NorthEscambia.com reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.