Amid criticism from a local woman who suggested Dugger officials don't read water meters consistently, the town council took steps to improve service Monday night.
The conflict was the sole flare-up in an otherwise peaceful meeting citizens praised as among the most productive the new council's had since taking office last January.
Among the steps the town took to improve water readings and service: reducing reconnection fees from $100 down to $50, and re-hiring the water meter readers who lost their jobs amid staff cuts in August.
However, Regina Hall criticized the town, suggesting water bills vary greatly because the times the readings are taken also vary widely.
"You read it whatever day you want," said Hall. "You're not doing it the way it's supposed to be, by law. You read it any time you want."
Clerk-Treasurer Michelle Riggleman questioned that talk.
"How do you figure that?" she asked Hall, adding that when the town eventually attains the funds, an automated meter reading system which takes a computerized assessment will be possible which reads everyone's meters at once.
"When we do get the money to put that system in place -- which I doubt we ever will -- maybe we can do that," Riggleman said.
Councilman Kermit King, who rode along to record meter readings Monday, suggested Hall doesn't realize how much work taking the readings actually requires.
He noted a two-man team recorded nine-and-a-half pages in an eight- hour day, but that to complete the work, another 44 pages must be done.
"I stayed in the truck and wrote down the numbers, and we worked from 8 a.m. to 3:30, with only a 45 minute lunch break, and that's all we got done," King said.
King also questioned Hall's assertion that water meter readings had sometimes been taken six weeks apart, rather than monthly.
However, Assistant Clerk Carolyn Settles said it's occurred twice.
Town Council President Dwight Nielson added the town's also struggling with locating leaks in the system.
"We know we have them," he said. "But leaks are one of the hardest things in the world to find."
Once the town gets on better financial footing, Nielson suggested valves may be installed once funding is obtained. That could help the city determine where the leaks occur.
The conversation about water leaks diverged into a game of chicken -- quite literally -- as Hall criticized the town council for being, in her words, "useless."
As an example, she suggested nothing's been done about the chickens which stray into her yard.
"It's his responsibility to get rid of the chickens," Hall said, then when Riggleman disagreed, added "Yes, it is, Michelle."
King, momentarily confused by the discussion's divergence, asked "What do chickens have to do with anything?"
Nielson replied "She called me because some chickens were running loose."
King proposed a solution -- "Shoot 'em."
However, while Hall contended the town presently has an ordinance banning livestock inside its limits, Town Marshal David Heaton disagreed.
"There was an ordinance created for livestock by the town, it served its purpose, and it was withdrawn," said the policeman, who's served 16 years as marshal.
Other residents, however, were happier with the town council.
Brent Wayman praised the councilmen for acting to remove a dilapidated trailer near the intersection of Clark and 3rd streets.
"It was a mess," he said. "I've been trying to get that moved for 16 years with the previous councils, so thank you."
Nielson said the town will continue efforts to enforce cleaning up run-down properties.
"All of Church Street," joked Larry Cornelius, which led to a raised eyebrow from Shawn Farris, head pastor of the Faith Community Church.
"Hey, I live on Church Street," he said.
"Correction on that," Cornelius amended. "Some of Church Street."
Council members also considered changing their scheduled meeting times, presently slated for 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month.
King, however, said he was uncertain if the council could change its meeting times now that they've been announced for the year.
However, state open meeting laws do allow a change in meeting times so long as adequate notice is given 48 hours in advance.
Brock Heaton requested the meetings consistently stay on the first Monday of the month.
"Otherwise, some of us can't be here," he said.
Nielson said the meeting times had been rescheduled occasionally during the council's first year due to time conflicts, "but we think we've got most of that worked out now."