Utilities Board made several important changes

Frank McKenzie will replace Scott Monarco on Board

By Bette McFarren


The room was crowded for Mayor Jeffri Pruyn’s first Utility Board meeting, and the meeting was an eventful one. Several members of the City Council were also present: Eugene Mestas, Ed Vela, Elaine McIntyre, and Jim Goodwin. They were attentive and asked good questions.

After the reports, Joe Kelley made his farewell statement to the board. “The Conduit is still our best option, although there may be alternatives. I thought we would be doing it by 2023, which would be a good time for us, with the RO Plant being paid off.” He continued that a purer water source is always a better option; it would make the Reverse Osmosis plant work better. The city also has Holbrook water rights, although the group there did not want to take Kelley’s suggestion of rotational farrowing, which is working well for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District with their Super Ditch project. Many options are open - leases have been extended for a year. The Holbrook farmers have been good stewards of the land, as Kelley anticipated.

“Remain flexible and dynamic as we move forward. Thank you for being tolerant with me, even if I didn’t deserve it,” said Kelley. “Don’t call me about water and waste water. Tom [Seaba] and Rick [Klein] will take the calls.” Chairman Lorenz Sutherland said, “I have been on the Utility Board as long as Joe has been with water and waste water. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Mr. Kelley. City Manager Rick Klein added, “Joe came in 1992. He has kept the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] at bay for 10 years. He initiated slip lining for failing sewer lines. He started the practice of using cameras to inspect the pipes and anticipate big problems. Slip-lining enabled non-destructive pipe repair. He is a leader in replacing water and sewer lines, so we don’t have to replace the reverse osmosis filters as often. He pushed the new Walmart expansion and now we’re open for business! He replaced the tires and got a better program. We’ll be having a celebration on the 28th!”

Tom Seaba is the new Water and Waste Water Director. He was quick to acknowledge the heads of the technical part of the job are Bob Lucero at Waste Water, Carl Scofield in Distribution, and Steve Roberts at the Reverse Osmosis Plant.

Due to the warm weather this fall, progress on the new waste water plant is further along than expected at this time. Anyone may now tour the new location, but call ahead. You will have to wear a helmet and vest to go into the construction site - OSHA rules!

Scott Monarco has elected not to continue on the Utility Board. Chairman Sutherland acknowledged two letters of interest and nominated Frank McKenzie to be the new member of the board. He was voted in unanimously by the three members present. McKenzie served on the board formerly as a City Council representative.

City Finance Officer Aliza Tucker reported good results with the enforcement of the Dormant Facility Fee. It has caused owners to take a careful look at their property and make needed changes. New Council Member Elaine McIntyre asked if the fee is financially a good idea. Director Mike Bourget answered, “This is not intended to make money. It is intended to get people to look at their property and keep it up, and it’s doing a good job of that.”

Phil Malouff has organized the city’s utilities rules and regulations so that they are more user-friendly. Changes will be easier to make. Gary Cranson suggested public documents be entered into the website in a searchable format. City Clerk Melanie Scofield, Klein, and Assistant City Manager Bill Jackson all thought this an excellent idea.