COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - An effort to protect a town's water has gone way too far, that according to both an area fire and police chief. The leaders fear people in the city of Lavon may not be safe, after the water company locked nearly every fire hydrant in town.
Fire hydrants in Lavon look pretty ordinary at first glance – then you see something unusual on top. Padlocks have been put on all the emergency water sources.
Mayor Charles Teske Jr. has authorized firefighters to use bolt cutters to remove the locks put on the hydrants as a result of a dispute with the water company.
Fire Chief Jon Scott had to try several keys before finally finding the right one to open the lock on a fire hydrant outside Lavon's city hall. Firefighters called to a scene won't have the luxury of time.
"I figure it's going to slow us down anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes," said Jon Scott, chief of the Nevada Volunteer Fire Department.
Almost all of the hydrants in the town of 3,000 residents have locks on them.
Officials with the Lavon Special Utility District say the step was taken because of water thefts.
But when asked Lavon Police Chief Mike Jones said that to his knowledge his department hasn't received any reports of theft from the water company.
Now Chief Jones has a pair of bolt cutters in his patrol car. "It's sad that we have to carry them," he said.
The situation has frustrated Mayor Teske. "When I heard about this I wasn't pleased."
CBS 11 News took the mayor's concerns to the utility company's office, where the general manager defended the locks.
The employee said, "Somebody was taking water. The fire department has two sets of keys to all the locks. We have not had any complaints."
In response Chief Scott said, "We can't be messing around looking for keys. We have to have access to our water supply."
A far as the city cutting the padlocks off, the employee said, "I would probably say that they shouldn't do that. It would be destroying property."
Randy Ross has lived in Lavon for five years. He worries about whether the lock on the hydrant down the street can be opened in time to stop a fire at his home.
"It's kind of dangerous. I'd like to see it removed," he said adding, "It's strange. I've never seen it in any other place I've ever lived."
The chief said the padlocks have already resulted in a significant delay in putting out one fire.
Despite the public safety complaints, the utility company doesn't seem to be backing down.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
- PHOTOS: Your Pet Pictures
for more features.