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Water Commission Makeup Undecided


May 3, 2012 by Jeff Winkler

West Fork ‘s Water and Wastewater Utility Commission failed to follow city council instructions and the public’s wishes and instead postponed a decision to establish the actual number of commission members the group has.  When asked, some commission members, the chair, and Water Superintendent have said in recent months the commission has between three and five members. They currently list four individuals as being commission members.

 Eleven months ago, the Water Commission presented a development plan to  citizens at a public meeting regarding the 14 percent rate hike. That plan would in part increase their commission from three to five members.
 Four months ago, minuets of their meeting (with four members present) state they have a vacancy. Citizens have offered to serve but none were contacted.
At the April city council meeting, after some pointed questioning by city attorney Tom Keiklak about how many members are actually on the commission they agreed to adjust their bylaws at their next meeting to reflect reality.
The discussion of the topic at the May 2 meeting  began with commission member Andy Baughman suggesting that having a fifth member helps insure  meetings will have a quorum. Member Joe Toher expressed agreement and the group’s secretary Mike Mitchell nodded agreement.  Then it was suggested by Chair Virgil Blackmon to have three members with two “alternates.”   Butch Bartholomew said he had names of people who had offered to serve.  The  discussion then abruptly turned to a Census Bureau handout concerning 2010 demographic profile data.
City Council member Joan Wright who was in the audience, asked if the commission members had made a motion or taken a vote on the issue.  She was told they had just decided to “think about it” until their next meeting in June.
Commission members were informed of the development of a website for the West Fork water utility through their membership in the Arkansas Rural Water Association.  The state association has contracted with a Texas company to provide  web sites to its members. The project’s implementation is contingent on legislative approval requiring about 80 percent participation by water association member groups in the state.  The web site could be used to publish drinking water quality reports and other information such as current projects, alerts, billing information and more. The site can be viewed at
The water utility has had no violations recently in any aspect of collecting and testing of West Fork’s drinking water reported Bartholomew. He noted that all water employees are involved in the process of collecting samples and getting them to the Ark. Health Department.  “I’m very proud of everyone that works on this,” he said.
Also reported at the meeting:  monthly water loss is down to 22 percent; project alterations for new elementary school project related sprinkler system have slowed construction.
After the conclusion of the business portion of the meeting Bartholomew shared with those present some of the history of water in West Fork. He related details of providing water to the town prior to the current arrangement of buying water from Fayetteville.  Water was at first taken from the “swimming hole.”  When it dried up, water was taken from Wreck Hole. At one time the town hoped to build a lake south of town for recreation and as a water supply. Funders pointed out that that was what Beaver Lake was for.  Bartholomew told of the expansion of water districts as the town grew.  He shared antidotes of past large leaks and how they were discovered and repaired.
Present at the meeting were Chair Virgil Blackmon, Secretary Mike Mitchell, members Joe Toher and Andy Baughman, Water department secretary Kirstie Drymon took the minuets.  Also present were city council members Ed Stout and Joan Wright. Mayor Hime was present at the beginning of the meeting.  The Observer was present.

Jeff Winkler

Jeff Winkler is the managing editor of the Washington County Observer. Email him at

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