By Nolan Madden
Vice Mayor Wade Carlisle brought to the table Holbrook’s long-standing issue of water usage during this week’s city council meeting. The discussion is one that the council tabled in a related aspect during its Aug. 11 meeting, specifically regarding pending and potential litigation in connection with the Little Colorado River water adjudication and other legal issues associated with the city’s water supply.
Carlisle expressed his concerns over the city’s recent five-year recorded trend of water usage and his proposal to remediate it moving forward.
“I’ve been looking into the amount of water we’ve been pumping since 2010. An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons. In 2010 we pumped 1,078 acre-feet; 2011 was lower at 965, 2012 was the lowest at 811, and in 2013 it jumped up to 1,113 acre-feet. In 2014 it was 1,095.”
Carlisle asked Finance Director Randy Sullivan whether the city’s water billing was continually decreasing. “Our budget is showing a slight decrease,” Sullivan said.
The vice mayor related that a past city-wide water audit revealed that, in addition to consumer theft of services, faulty water meters were to blame for previous water consumption and billing discrepancies, and suggested to the council and city staff that scheduling another audit could be helpful in determining any similar equipment errors now.
He acknowledged that, “It’s possible that we’re using more water in the city than ever before.”
City Manager Ray Alley informed the council that he would work with Sullivan to provide a detailed report of water consumption costs and usage versus audit. He also noted that a previous water audit revealed that usage and consumption figures were incorrectly calculated and recorded by a city employee and that the dated records may reflect this error.
Alley explained that his department receives a monthly water report that flags zero and high usage meter readings, and that the report would clearly indicate resident consumers with no open billing account who are illegally consuming water. “We have caught people who were actually running a water hose from one house to (an adjacent) house,” he told the council. Alley also said he feels an audit would reveal that the likelihood of faulty water meters is very low.
In other news, the vice mayor also reported on his recent interactions with Gov. Doug Ducey, who spoke at a roundtable discussion at the 26-Bar Ranch in Springerville this month.
The main purpose of Ducey’s forum was to open communications and begin dialogue between the governor’s office and local non-Native American government, as well as Hopi and Navajo officials. Ducey was accompanied by U.S. Senator John McCain, State Senator Carlyle Begay and other officials.
Carlisle said he broached the issue of resolving Holbrook’s outstanding water adjudication problem with McCain during the meeting.
“Everybody’s interested in getting something accomplished with water adjudication,” Carlisle told the council, but he quoted Sen. McCain as responding that he is “not interested in spending any money on something like that.” The vice mayor opined to the council that McCain “doesn’t mind spending billions of dollars on other things, so I just couldn’t understand (him) not wanting to settle our water adjudication problem.” Carlisle said he came away from the conversation “ready for some other senator to be in (office), but that’s just me.”
During the governor’s forum, Carlisle also posed the matter of mitigating the occurrence of transient persons within the Holbrook community. He related that, according to Senate President Andy Biggs, the biggest reason the legislature did not approve a proposed bill requiring a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold for intoxicated transients who are taken into law enforcement custody was “because of due process. Without a hearing, they would not be able to move the bill forward,” he was told.
Carlisle noted that Sen. Begay expressed to him that the issue is something he “is very well aware of” and is something that the Navajo community is very interested in addressing due to the high transient mortality rate within central Navajo County and surrounding areas, such as Flagstaff.
In other action Aug. 25, the council:
* Heard a presentation by Navajo County Emergency Management Director Mary Springer and Navajo County Emergency Management Coordinator Catrina Jenkins on the Ready Navajo County Public Notification System.
* Received an update from Police Chief Mark Jackson on an in-precinct tabletop discussion completed last week to evaluate the department’s performance in potential emergency situations. Communication was noted as an area for needed improvement. Jackson plans to outfit the police squad with portable radios and utilize the Holbrook Fire Department’s Citizens Band (CB) radio system base station for improved response preparedness.
* Received an update from Chief Jackson on preliminary discussions held with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) for BNSF-hosted citizen training sessions and provision of safety equipment for derailment and disaster preparedness.
* Received an update from Alley on street paving projects. East California Street has been completed between Navajo Boulevard and Second Street. Paving projects will be suspended for several months in order for the streets crew to resolve the backlog of weed abatement and storm drainage cleaning needs throughout the city.
* Received an update from Alley on a recently completed levee audit, which assessed violations for soil erosion, weed control, rodent infestation and easement drainage stabilization.
The city has two years to correct the cited issues, but Alley is working to complete repair of the deficiencies within a year.
* Received an update from Chief Jackson on assessments for proposed installation of an LED solar powered speed limit signage at the Apache Avenue bridge. Permission is being requested from the Arizona Department of Transportation to move forward with the installation.
* Heard the reading of a letter of appreciation addressed to Chief Jackson by Holbrook resident Susan Nafziger praising the service efforts of Officer Jed Koon.
* Received an update from Alley on inspection-related repairs at Holbrook Municipal Airport. Hangar doors and tracks have been uninstalled in preparation for replacement on Aug. 26. Pavement resurfacing has also been completed.
* Heard the first reading of Ordinance 15-05, authorizing the sale of real property of the City of Holbrook, namely Parcel 109-16-025, to Northland Pioneer College.
The council requested further discussion on the language of the ordinance.
* Heard the first reading of Ordinance 15-06, authorizing the city manager to receive the deeds to 35 lots in the Julia Addition of the city, which are being gifted to the city by Shannon Newman.
* Received an update from Sullivan on the audit of the city’s finances, which was completed last week. Financial statements for July 2015 are slated to be prepared and presented by next week.
* Received an update from Alley on the East End Dog Park construction, which began this week. Underground utilities have been located and marked at the site in preparation for digging and excavation. Design plans have been drafted for discussion and review.
* Received information from Mayor Bobby Tyler regarding his “open door” policy. He can be reached any time by phone at (928) 241-0450 and by email at email@example.com.
* Received an update from Chief Jackson on Lieutenant Jack Arend, who attended Rural Executive Management Institute (REMI) training funded by a REMI grant. The program focuses on rural executive leadership, grant writing, media relations and critical situational management.
* Approved a request to upgrade to a 25-line telephone system at the Holbrook Police Department, which will be purchased from Frontier Communications at a cost of no more than $15,000, including a five-year warranty and installation.
* Approved the appointment of Sullivan as Holbrook’s chief fiscal officer, as required by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General. The role designates Sullivan to submit to the state financial reports on behalf of the city.
* Approved payment of claims totaling $70,288.03.
* Approved payment of claims to Walt’s Hardware in the amount of $1,401.78.
* Approved payment of claims to The Tribune-News in the amount of $552.04.
* Proclaimed September as Grandfamily/Kinship Care Month.
* Approved the scheduling of a work session for assessment of capital items at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
* Received an update from Councilman Richard Peterson on Holbrook High Schools’ soccer, volleyball and football programs. The Roadrunners’ football season begins this week.
* Received a report from Mayor Tyler regarding the appointment of Community Affairs Director Kathleen Smith as city representative to the Arizona Parent Teacher Association and the Hulet Elementary School Parent Teacher Association.
* Received reports from Mayor Tyler and Councilman Tim Dixon on their attendance at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns Annual Conference held Aug. 18-21.
* Received an update from Sullivan on progress of obstacle course preparations for the Aug. 29 Holbrook Dirty Bird 5K Mud Run.
Community Affairs Director Kathleen Smith reported that 60 runners had registered to participate to date.
* Heard the reading of notice that Arizona Public Service Company (APS) is partnering with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) on a household hazardous waste disposal event scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the city recycling yard. Items that will be accepted include paints, solvents and caustic liquid cleaners.
* Received an update from Chief Jackson regarding acquisition of one non-patrol electric-propelled vehicle.
The city council will hold its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, S