Feb 072014

By Nick Worth
A reassignment of water department supervisor Armando Aguilera to concentrate on training other city employees has resulted in City Manager Ray Alley taking over as head of the Holbrook City Water Department.
“I will be the immediate supervisor of the water department in order to facilitate some changes,” Alley said. “I want the department to be more accountable, and to carry out some facility repairs that have been lacking.”
Alley said he wanted to reassign Aguilera to a training role because his 32 years of experience in the water department make him a “valuable asset” to the city. He said Aguilera would see no reduction in pay in the new job, even though he has been moved from a supervisory position to an hourly employee.
“He demoted me after 33 years of service to the city,” Aguilera said Tuesday. “I’m not in agreement, but he’s the big boss, so I’ll do what he says.”
Aguilera said he is not yet sure of what his new duties will be.
“Yesterday Ray told me I would not be supervising anymore,” said Aguilera. “I asked him what I would be doing and he said, ‘The same thing.’”
“I’ve known Armando for 32 years,” Alley said. “He’s a hard worker and has 32 years of valuable experience the city can draw on.
“Armando is doing us a big favor by taking this position,” Alley said. He said Aguilera’s experience will come in handy in several areas, such as training the younger water department employees, writing policies, taking care of the water monitoring reports and cross training employees from other city departments to do water department work.
“Armando is also one of the top two backhoe operators in the city, so we may ask him to help out in the streets department, if needed,” said Alley. “His biggest goal will be to cross train department employees.
“We’re not going to be here forever,” said Alley. “A lot of the older people in the city need to pass their knowledge down to the younger workers.”
Asked how he could assume the duties of water department supervisor in addition to his roles as city manager, public works director and head of the streets department, Alley admitted he is busy.
“I have a lot of help,” Alley said. “Armando is still here and I have good people all around me. Plus, I enjoy working.”
Alley said making the change was the right thing to do. “I don’t do much in the street department anymore,” he added.
“When I first got here four years ago, I was hired to get the city in shape financially and facility-wise, and that’s what I’ve tried to do,” Alley said. “I started with the street department. I was not popular at first, but I made changes and our streets are now in great shape.
“I’d put our street crews up against any in the state, public or private,” said Alley.
He added that he also changed the city parks department with “significant personnel and operations changes.
“In my opinion, it’s in better shape with more parks than it’s ever been,” he said.
As for his plans for the water department, Alley said water facilities improvements would be high on the list.
He said several of the department’s pump houses and lift stations are in need of work, ranging from simple painting to full-scale construction. Two lift stations located near the Hopi Travel Plaza are in need of new block buildings to replace the existing frame and siding structures, which are succumbing to the weather. Five other lift and booster pump stations are in need of cleaning and other work on the structures, Alley said.
“I think there’s room for improvement in our water department facilities,” said Alley. “There’s always something to be done, even in winter.”