By Nick Worth
A large crowd of family and friends gathered in the Holbrook City Council chambers Tuesday night to show support for Armando Aguilera, who was recently removed as supervisor of the city water and wastewater department.
Mayor Jeff Hill started off the meeting by reading the city manager’s job description from the city charter.
According to the charter, the city manager has control of all administration and offices of the city and its employees, and can appoint and remove employees from their jobs after first reviewing the appointment or removal with the city council. Appointments and promotions are to be made solely on the basis of merit.
The manager is also charged with the duty to investigate any and all complaints received about city departments, the charter states.
“The city charter is our law and we have to abide by it,” Hill told those attending the meeting. “The city charter has to conform with state law and that has to conform with federal law.”
During his manager’s report, Alley gave the council an overview of what he has been doing since being hired as city manager four years ago.
“I was hired to bring city facilities and finances up to standards,” Alley said. “I have not always been popular.”
He then told the council he started with fixing the airport, removing trash that had accumulated and improving the facility. He then started improvements in the street department. Echoing comments he made in a Feb. 7 interview with The Tribune-News, Alley repeated that the changes he made were not popular, but that the streets had been improved.
He then told the council the parks and recreation department had been improved under his watch, with the addition of new parks and improvements in the midtown park at the intersection of Hopi Drive and Navajo Blvd., and improvements to the city pool and its facilities.
“Now I feel like I can make some changes in the wastewater and water department,” said Alley, adding that he has “a real, strong obsession that we need to cross train in all our departments.”
He spoke to the change in Aguilera’s job, noting that he wants to have Aguilera concentrate on cross training employees, be in charge of monthly, annual and bi-annual reports, and take care of procedural training in the city departments.
“Before I hired on, you had an engineering firm make maps of all the city’s water lines,” Alley said. He told the council the maps are not accurate and in one case actually showed an eight-inch water line across the street from where it actually is.
“I want to locate all those lines,” said Alley.
He then said he had several concerns with water department facilities and showed a PowerPoint presentation of photos of city water facilities. He did not narrate the presentation and the room was silent as the photos displayed on a wall of the chambers.
The photos showed city water facilities with trash nearby, buildings in disrepair, old equipment left on the site after being removed, fences in need of repair, doors in need of replacement, entire buildings in disrepair and in need of painting, walls painted with graffiti, and holes in walls and ceilings.
“I’m not trying to put the blame on anyone,” Alley said. “This is as much my fault as anyone’s. Making these changes will force me to get things done.
“It’s my fault,” Alley repeated. “I’ve spent a lot of time on those other departments and couldn’t get these things done.”
He then said the other departments were improved to the point he could spend more time on the water department.
Later in the meeting, during the call to the public, the council heard from Aguilera, who told them he started in the water department in 1982.
“I’ve worked for the city for 31 years and I’ve been dedicated,” said Aguilera. He told the council that in 1995 the water and wastewater departments were combined, and former city manager Ron Eisele made him a foreman.
“In 2001 I was promoted to supervisor and I’ve worked that job for 13 years,” said Aguilera. “In 32 years I’ve been out there working nights and on weekends on water and sewer lines, taking time away from my family, and I did it with dignity and pride.”
Attorney Eduardo H. Coronado of the Coronado Law Firm then addressed the council. Coronado is representing Aguilera and five other water department workers in notices of claim against the city.
“I want to speak about the city’s personnel policy,” Coronado said. “A personnel policy is for the protection of the personnel. For Armando, he should have been evaluated by a personnel director, who should be an unbiased person.
“The city manager evaluated Armando at a very curious time, right after he filed a notice of claim against the city,” said Coronado.
Hill thanked Coronado for his comments.
Eva Purvis then addressed the council regarding Alley.
“I have nothing against Ray, but I have yet to see any job description or performance review,” said Purvis. “Why demote someone with pay?”
Leo Maestas then spoke to the council during the call to the public.
“What I witnessed during the past six months during my investigation is unconscionable,” said Maestas. “I’ve seen Mr. Aguilera out at three in the morning working in excrement.”
Maestas then began to make allegations against Alley and was told to stop by Hill.
“That’s enough,” Hill told Maestas, and warned him against making accusations against Alley or anyone else.
“Don’t you threaten me,” Maestas replied.
Hill repeated his order for Maestas to stop, however Maestas refused to comply and Hill asked Police Chief Mark Jackson to remove Maestas from the chambers.
Hill then had to quiet some members of the audience who were objecting and issued a plea for calm.
“There isn’t a single person in here that wants to see this city go down the (tubes),” said Hill. “We represent the citizens of Holbrook and everybody else.”
He said if work sessions were called for to address problems, they can be held.
“Most of you I’ve known all my life and most of you know Ray,” Hill said. “We can have no personal attacks. Speak your mind, speak your piece and then we move on.”
In other business Feb. 11, the council:
* Inspected the new Holbrook fire truck, Engine No. 14, which had just been delivered on Tuesday. The truck was presented to the council by fireman Phillip Rose.
* Heard a report from Councilman Bobby Tyler, who told the council he has been asked by a resident if a park could be built in the McLaws Road area. He also asked Alley how much land the city has available near Hunt Park to expand the park.
Hill reminded Alley he could not answer Tyler’s questions because it was not listed on the agenda.
* Heard from Purvis during the initial call to the audience for comment on items listed on the agenda. Purvis asked the council who owns a parcel of land the council was planning to lease to Operation 29:11.
Hill reminded Purvis the council could not answer any comments, but told her the answer to her question would be discussed during the consideration of the agenda item.
* Heard a report from Hill in which he said he has received complaints from some golfers about the behavior of younger people playing on the golf course who are not aware of proper golf etiquette and who have been using the golf carts in inappropriate ways. Hill asked the public to report any problems they see to city hall.
* Heard a financial report from Finance Director Randy Sullivan.
* Heard a report from Alley, who told the council the new park at the senior center is almost complete.
“We still have some work on the historical building,” Alley said.
Alley also gave the council an update on the progress of roadwork, with street crews patching the roads by the LDS church and the Spurlock Hill subdivision. He said no further work had yet been done on the cemetery expansion, because crews have been too busy with other projects.
He also reported the easement for an access road into the new Navajo County Public Works Complex has to be changed, and that the county would also be seeking another easement on city land for another access road to the complex.
* Heard a report from Chief Jackson, who told the council he has hired Bob Sutton as an evidence clerk, and that the evidence is being moved to a new room and organized.
Jackson also said work is still underway on updating the new policy and procedures through the Lexicor company, and that the police department has received some used military vehicles for free, one of which has been made into a new Volunteers In Police Service vehicle.
He also reported radio problems since switching to the county dispatcher. According to Jackson, there are dead areas on the east side of town near the Circle K store, which are a concern for officer safety.
“The repeater on the water tank will be turned back on and that should improve reception on the hill,” said Jackson.
He ended his report to the council by saying the department had lost three officers and was running short-handed.
“We have three officers in the police academy who appear to be doing well,” Jackson said. “They will graduate in May and it will be August before they go out on their own.”
* Approved an ordinance leasing a dormitory building on the old Northland Pioneer College campus, which is now owned by the city, to Operation 29:11 for a one-year period for $1. The lease begins on March 12 and runs to March 11, 2015.
Alley told the council the group currently holds a lease on another warehouse building on the property and has made many improvements to the structure.
“These are derelict buildings,” said Councilman Richard Peterson. “This group will do all the repairs and some derelict buildings will be occupied.”
The council unanimously approved the ordinance.
* Approved reducing the number of members on the Holbrook Planning and Zoning Committee from seven to five in order to make it easier to have a quorum at the meetings.
* Scheduled a work session with the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce regarding the job duties of Kathleen Smith, who currently is executive director of the chamber, as well as the city’s special events coordinator. The work session will follow the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
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By Nick Worth