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HAWARDEN WATERWORKS I COMPANY.

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HAWARDEN WATERWORKS I COMPANY. CRITICA.L SHAREHOLDERS. I LIVELY MRETING. I The thirty-fifth half-yearly meeting of the "Mawarden and District Waterworks Company was held at Chester on Wednesday. The chair- wan (Mr. James Tomkinsin, M.P.) presided, and there was a good attendance. The directors presented the following report:—" The accounts for the half-year ending December 31st, 1900, shew a balance available for distribution of R512 5s. lOd. This will admit of the payment f a dividend at the safe of 21 per cent pnr annum (free of income tax), carrying forward JE90 4s. ld. The dividend will be payahle on the 14th February fcfxt. The retiring dirpctors are Mr. Charles Davison, and Mr. F. F. Rrown, both of whom ar-, eligible for re-election. The auditor, Mr. Walter Conway, also retires and offers himself for re-election." The Chairman, in moving the adopt4on of the accounts. siid th* profit for the half-year kad been E547, which was an increase of practically 140 on thA previous half-year. The receipts bad shewn an increase from private houses of £ 26, and from meters a decrease of SL1 There was also a decrease of £10 in the receipts from buildings, making a total decrease of £17. as against an increase of E26. There kad been a total decrease of £102 in working expenses. The businpss of the company had continued to increase, and they HOW supplied 3,508 houses with water, and that in a district where there was previously practically 80 drinkable water at all. They had, in erder to keep their customers well supplied, again incurred the expense of pumping at Cileain to tide them )v-r very dry times. On the whole he thought the company might claim I it had done a good work, and one extremely beneficial, in fact, essential to the population as it was when the company was established, and it had enabled many hundreds of houses to I 19,4 built and works to bo carried on that could not have been carried on but for the under- taking. The statement made by the auditor of the company that they had everspent their capital account was not actually correct. Although it was true there was a balance of 1.213 due to their bankers, the money they bad raised with debentures was only X4,473 whereas their borrowing powers for debentures were £ 7,500. Mr. F. F. Brown seconded. Mr. J. Gooddie Holmes questioned whether they were in a position to pay a dividend with- out borrowing money from the bank. They eould not pay a dividend without increasing their overdraft. On referring to the balance-sheet ke found that the company was supplying less water. He found that in the last half-year the amount paid for water was R981. and in the June half-year E950, against £ 1,035 and £1.042 respectively in the previous year. From what he saw from the balance-sheet he was afraid the company was going from bad to worse. (Hear, hear.) Had th* company an engineer ? The Chairman Certainly. Mr. Holmes I never see an engineer's report. The Chairman: Mr. Enfield Taylor is the engineer and he reports to every meeting of the directors. Mr. Holmes I think the shareholders would like to know something about the reports. The Chairman said he did not follow Mr. Holmes in his remarks about the decrease. They took X26 mere in. water rates during the half-year than they did in the corresponding half-year of 1899. Mr. Holmes I do not think so. The Chairman: I beg your pardon; nl2 against £ 686. Mr. Holmes I mean the meters have decreased, the water you supply by meters. The Chairman said the meters were for certain industrial works which wanted water in dry seasons and not in wet reasons. Mr. Holmes: Do these companies get what they require ? The Chairman said naturally they looked after their domestic supply first. If anyone was to go short the meters went short. The Engineer (Mr. H. Enfield Taylor) pointed out that they were bound by Act of Parliament to look after the domestic supply first. Mr. Holmes maintained that they were supplying less water in the district than they did. The balance-sheet suggested to him that the company was getting worse year by year, and he could not accoant for it. He should like to have an engineer's report on the property of the company. He considered that the shareholders ought to know what the engineer thought of it. (Hear, hear ) If their engineer could not give them a report he should like an independent report. The Chairman said the company's engineer was perfectly capable of giving full reports; and he thought it was quite right the share- holders should have them. Mr. Holmes: What is our engineer paid ? The Chairman You will see it in the accounts; XSO for the half-year—that is 9100 a year. Mr. Holmes: At the last June meeting I see there was a commission of 9,340 paid. I do not know whether that is the usual way of paying engineers. The Chairman That was for the whole engineering work of the company for thirteen years. Mr. Wright (Hawarden): Was it a legal matter to pay that money for a period extend- ing over 10 years ? The Chairman I believe it was. Mr. Wnght: It was out of date. The Chairman pointed out that there was a moral obligation on the company. Mr. Wright: Why was not that account paid before that ? The Chairman The fact was it was not II presented. The Rev. A. H. Fish, as a shareholder of about £ 500, asked what was the deinite arrangement by which their engineer was paid. It might be all right that commission should; be paid to the engineer; he did not know the custom, but they should like to know definitely what was the arrangement between themselves and the engineer. He should like that question answered if the shareholders would support j him. (Hear, hear.) The Chairman said the resident engineer (Mr. Taylor) was paid 9100 a year for his general supervision of all the works and mains of the company, and he had the usual com- mission on fresh capital expenditure. If they asade a new reservoir he would have his com- mission in the same way as they would have to pay any other engineer. The sum paid to Mr. Taylor was for commission on their reservoirs and on the works he carried out. Mr. Taylor said engineers had to earn their living by the work they did the same as other gentlemen in business. The X100 a year that was charged was for general superintendence, and included all his staff and himself. He might tell them that he had been nearly killed three times while engaged in work of the company, and only on the previous evening one of his men was out starving in the snow. The salary of zElOO included his office, and j everything in connection with the general j superintendence, and keeping the concern going, outside the secretary's duty. He had numerous letters to answer daily and people to attend to. If it had not been that their funds were not sufficient, he should have asked for a rise in his salary. With regard to the com- mission everybody knew, or ought to know, that engineers irrespective of the work they did to carry on the business of a concern were paid 5 per cent. upon capital outlay, and 2, per cent. for drawing up specifications and quanti- ties. He had never charged 2,1 per cent., and he had never charged any incidental outlay only when large concerns were being carried out. If he had charged what he was entitled to, he could have doubled the sum complained of. With regard to what Mr. Holmes had said about the reports the Chairman had explained that that was not his fault. He reported to the directors regularly, and it was only a question of the expense of printing the reports, and sending copies to the shareholders. Mr. Holmes: We want a report on the balance sheet. Mr. Taylor: Oh, but the engineer has nothing to do with the balance sheet. Proceeding he said he had nothing to keep back, and the reports were open to anyone who liked to see them. Mr. E. Peers (Meadow Head, Tottington, Bury, Lancashire) asked if the engineer had any expenses in addition to the £ 100 a year. Mr. F. F. Brown: Out of pocket expenses, certainly. Mr. Peers: What does it amount to ? What are we paying the engineer in the year ? The Secretary (Mr. E. Andrews) said Mr. Taylor's expenses during the last half-year were JE6 16s. 6d. His travelling expenses would require making up, as they were small items. Mr. F. F. Brown remarked that if Mr. Taylor had erred he had erred in doing them a benefit. When the company was struggling to make laeadway Mr. Taylor kept back his commission account until the company, after many years, had begun to earn a revenue. He, perhaps, ought to have brought it before them before he did, but their thanks were due to him for hold- ing the account back. They had not paid Mr. Taylor the full commission that an engineer usually expected, and he did not think tke shareholders had any cause to grumble at Mr. Taylor. Mr. Peers thought the company could not bear the expense of paying Mr. Taylor 2 per cent. If they wanted an engineer, why not consult one and pay him 5 per cent ? At present they were retaining an engineer and paying him twice over for his work. Mr. Brown explained that they were paying Mr. Taylor for daily ^uper vision, and generally looking after the affairs of the company. The Chairman thought they did not realise what the amount of work aud responsibility was. Their works were in a rather wild country, and if a mam burst, Mr. Taylor had to send there at any uour .)1' the day or night. He did not think they c«.>uld get their work done so cheaply by any other arrangement. Mr. Taylor said he heacci continuous hear, hears in the room, and lie would like some of those gentlemen to come with him that evening and he would shew tlldU wL,6 the engineer had to do. Did they expect, mat he should pay his travelling expanses ana the expenses of his assistants scaling out ail night? If they (lid, he thought they had better write to Great (ieorge-otreet and ask whether any engineer would do it. i-I. was uiucu obliged to the Chairman and Mr. tirown tor their remarks. He had worked iia-d t,ll me company, and at a starvation price he thougut. Mr. Peers considered Liity engineer was paid too much, and tie oojected to the extra com- mission. they wd, ti going to undertake a new work, and he asked the directors whether it was worth while to p",y mis 5 per cent., in addition to salary. fcL. thought it an injustice t. tne sharehoiaeis. Mr. Fish took ID th-it no one was objecting to Mr. Taylor being p-ud quale as liberally as they could pay him, u th»<y had the money. It was not a question ot casting doubt on Mr. lay lor it was a question oi wnether the com- pany was iu a position to have a highly qualified engineer, lie was sure there was no want, ot contiJence in Mr. Taylor. Theirs was a very small cuncein, and the question was whetuer it was woita Mr, Taylor's while or their white to ha.ve anyone ot his capacity to do the work. The Chairman said in the opinion of the direc- tors they could not get the work of the company done for less than a hundred a year. They thought that Mr. Taylor was anything but generously paid, and that they wou.d nave to pay more to anybody else. The expenditure of the company had been ever £ 30,000, so tnat the commission paid Mr. Taylor represented less than one per cent. Mr. Taylor said the engineer first appointed got about £ 2,000 or £ 3,0>JU, and he (Air. Taylor} had constructed everything. Tne Chairman said Air. Holmes made a state- ment that the company waa selling less water, and that it seemed to be going from bad to worse. Mr. Holmes: I did. The Cnairman said it was not a very friendly thing to say, and, moreover, Mr. Holmes was absolutely wrong, as there was an absolute in- crease of £ 9 on the water sold. Mr. Peers said the revenue from meters bad decreased from £ 357, the amount in 1894, to £ 2ti0. The Chairman: That is from meters you do not give the revenue from houses. Mr. Brown explained that although they were supplying more water they were perhaps getting less paid for it, because they had to supply the houses first, according to the Act of Parliament. The houses were increasing, and certainly there had been less water lor the meters. Mr. Holmes was not making any attack upon the company, but the fact that they were paying a dividend of 2i per cent., against that of 51 per cent, paid some years ago, shewed that they were not prospering. He was very anxious to see the company prosper, and saw no reason why it should not prosper. He did not know whether it was a wise principle to pay by commission, for of course it was an incentive to spend money. Whether it would be to the advantage of the com- pany to have a resident engineer at Oilcain-a maa aot of Mr. Taylor's repute—he did not know. At the next meeting he should move that they have an independent report, so that the shareholders might know where they stood. The Chairman assured the shareholders that they should have as fml a report as the directors and engineers could iav before them. It was quite true that the report was not as favourable as they could wish. They were, however, all shareholders, and the directors, some of them, had given their time to the affairs of the company practically for nothing for years. Three directors and he had put in a large sum of money to start the company, and to prevent the absolute loss of the money that had been put in before. Mr. William Brown, Mr. William Henry Gladstone, Mr. Robertson-ali of whom were now dead-and he found some £ 12, 000 to carry the company through, and they worked for years without a farthing's remuneration, and they gave their time and risked their money. The shareholders had voted the directors 1;30 a year for their services, but that did not adequately represent the services they rendered. If it was a question of the com- pany affording it, he should refuse to accept any remuneration. He held that one ought to be just before he was generous, and that services ought to be paid for before dividends were paid. The arrangement with the engineer, in their opinion, was the best and most economical, and they con- sidered that they were getting very good value for their money. The accounts were adopted. In the course of subsequent discussion Mr. Wright stated that there had been fewer com- plaints at Hawarden this last half-year than there had been since they started. The retiring directors and the auditor were re- elected, and a dividend as recommended declared.

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