July 16, 2011 by wcobserver
Moves to Hold Monthly Meeting
By Susan McCarthy
WEST FORK – The West Fork Water and Wastewater Commission made inroads June 28 to beef up the number of its commission members, appointing two new members and leaving the door open for an additional appointment at a later date. It also agreed to meet monthly instead of bi-monthly.
Andy Baughman and Joe Toher were approved by the commission and will be presented to West Fork City Council members for approval at the next city council meeting on July 12. The council has to approve the appointments for them to be final. The appointments of Baughman and Toher will bring the water commission members to four; the commission is working to expand from three to five members.
The water commission has operated for 35 years with three members, Virgil Blackmon said in an interview outside of the meeting. The commission’s chairperson, Greg Tabor, resigned on June 10, reducing the commission to just two members, Mike Mitchell and Blackmon. Mitchell was appointed to the commission last fall and Blackmon, who has previously served as West Fork’s mayor, was appointed to the commission May 10, just three days before the utility’s financial emergency became known.
The utility operates as a business and is funded by revenue generated from the roughly 1,000 water and sewer customers. Recent financial woes caused the utility to borrow $25,000 from the City of West Fork’s General Fund and led to the approval of a 14-percent rate increase, which will appear on water bills beginning this month.
Blackmon said the utility’s commission was established in 1973 and its role is to ensure the successful operation of the water and sewer department. Mayor Frances Hime emphasized that one of the commission’s most important responsibilities was in reviewing financial statements and she hopes the commission will do a better job managing the utility’s finances in the future.
Both Baughman and Toher were present at the water commission meeting and presented short statements to the council ahead of the vote.
Baughman said he has lived in West Fork since 2006 and is a retired Arkansas State Trooper. He said he’d expressed interest in serving on a city post when Blackmon had been mayor and was glad to be called upon to serve.
Toher said he and his family have lived in West Fork since 2005 and that he has been a construction superintendent for 20 years that has included large-scale development.
“We like West Fork and when I saw it on the sign, I thought my skill set might actually be of value and I can give back to the community I live in,” he said. Toher was referring to the city’s marquis outside of city hall where a call for new water commission members has been posted.
Following the meeting, Blackmon said he liked that Toher has dealt regularly with the same agencies with which the city works.
Ahead of the vote, Blackmon circulated a list of seven people that had expressed interest in serving on the utility’s commission. Hime added three additional possible candidates in a letter addressed to commission members, one of which was already on the commission’s list.
“I suggest we look at others, spend some time looking at them and go from there,” said Blackmon, referring to appointing a fifth and final member.
Blackmon didn’t provide specifics about how the list was whittled to two candidates, but said following the meeting, “those were the two we recommended.”
“We were under a concern from the council and mayor to expand the commission from three to five,” he said. “I respect that. We’re on the road for a five-member commission.”
The water and wastewater commission agreed to meet the first Wednesday of every month at noon. Due to the Fourth of July holiday and close proximity of the June 28 meeting, the commission will meet on July 13 at noon and then move to its new schedule beginning in August.