March 15, 2012 by Steve Winkler
The commission added two new members, Andy Baughman and Joe Toher in July. One volunteer, Joe DeSoto was rejected as a potential commissioner because he is related to the chairman. Another, Tony Alvarado was rejected because he is a member of the Police Commission, according to Michael “Butch” Bartholomew, Utility Superintendent.
Former City Clerk Susan Cooney whose name appears on the June 29 list said she submitted her name to Mayor Hime who gave it to the Water Commission. “I never heard anything back from them even though they said they would contact people,” wrote Cooney in an email reply to an Observer inquiry.
West Fork resident Wes Eckles, who wrote a letter saying he was willing to serve on the Water Commission and whose name appears on the original list told the Observer, “They never did anything. Never called, I never talked to Virgil Blackmon. They didn’t take any action. I never heard from this commission.” Eckles has since volunteered to be considered for a vacancy on the Planning Commission.
West Fork property owner Caroline Smith’s name appears on the list of individuals interested is being considered for appointment to the commission. She told the Observer that she made the offer to serve at the public hearing for the rate increase in June. “I didn’t write a letter, I told Virgil, the mayor and ‘Butchie,’ [Bartholomew]” she said. “I told Virgil I thought it would be good to have a woman on the commission.” According to Smith, Blackmon replied that he was “very well aware that she was a woman.” She said “Nothing else happened; I haven’t heard from anybody, they avoid- ed me.”
Jackie Bonner volunteered to serve on the Water Commission. “Nobody ever contacted me,” she told the Observer. She later withdrew her name when she learned the meetings were held at noon which conflicted with her work schedule. She has since volunteered to serve on the Planning Commission. Also on the original list was Larry Moore who has not returned our calls.
According to the minutes of the Jan. 11, 2012 water commission meeting, “There is one opening on the Water Commission that needs filling. Commissioners dis- cussed some options to fill the position.”
In a phone interview on Feb. 14, the Observer asked Chairman Blackmon to explain what was meant by “options to fill the position.” He said there were two individuals discussed but he wasn’t “comfortable” giving out that information. The Observer explained that as a public official he was obliged to disclose names mentioned during a public meeting.
Mr.Blackmon phoned and informed the Observer on Feb. 25 that the individuals mentioned at the Jan. 11 meeting were Larry Moore and Ronnie Robinbson. “No decision was made,” said Blackmon, adding, “there’s no hurry, we’ve operated several years with only three.”
The time and place of the Jan. 11, 2012, meeting was not announced to the public or media in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The Water Wastewater Utility Commission did not hold a meeting in December 2011 nor in February, 2012.