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Board nominates water committee members

by David Showers | March 30, 2023 at 4:05 a.m.
Earthmoving equipment works at the new water treatment plant site off Amity Road in July 30, 2021, in this city of Hot Springs photo from the Lake Ouachita Water Supply Project blog on the city's website. - Submitted photo

Mark Allen, former Arkansas State Police Troop K commander and former Garland County District Court administrator, and attorney Steve Dubriske were tapped for the newly formed Hot Springs Waterworks Advisory Committee's two nonresident seats.

Resolutions ratifying their nominations will be on the consent agenda of the Hot Springs Board of Directors' April 4 business meeting.

The board declined to nominate former County Judge Rick Davis to a nonresident position. He was the only applicant endorsed by the quorum court.

Davis declined to comment to The Sentinel-Record on Wednesday, but said he would issue a statement at a later date.

Legislation requiring municipal water providers to form nonvoting advisory committees if 20% or more of their customer base resides beyond the corporate limits was signed into law almost two years ago. The city has said about half of the 36,000 meters in its more than 100 square mile service area are outside the corporate limits.

Nonresident customers pay a 50% premium for water relative to customers inside the city.

A voice vote defeated District 4 Director Dudley Webb's motion to discuss the nominations in open session. He questioned if discussing political appointments behind closed doors violated the state's opening meetings statute.

"Those who are attempting to serve on these boards and committees are residents of the city and or county," he told the board. "Should we not be having the discussions to appoint those in public?"

City Attorney Brian Albright told Webb it's been the board's custom to discuss nominations in executive session.

"We have previously opined on this," Albright said. "It's my opinion an executive session is appropriate should the board choose to do so to discuss the nominations that will then be ratified at a public meeting next week."

The board declined to nominate Eric Capaci to one of the committee's resident seats. He seized on utility rates and the water fund's debt load when he campaigned for mayor last year. He told the board he understood utilities need to charge rates that recoup their expenses and service debt but hoped the city would be more transparent in the future.

Opponents of the rate increase the lame duck 2021-22 board adopted said consideration of the enabling ordinance was intentionally delayed until after the Nov. 8 election Capaci lost to incumbent Pat McCabe.

The proposed agenda was released two hours before the polls closed. The following day the board approved the list of items it would consider at its Nov. 15 business meeting.

"My campaign was less about the difficulty in having to raise water rates and the effect that has on the public and more about just better communication with the public," Capaci told the board Wednesday.

"Giving folks the information they need to understand the issues. Let them ask questions and provide more transparency so leaders can make informed decisions about those problems the citizens may be concerned about," he said.

The board nominated former city directors Randy Fale and Carroll Weatherford, former Justice of the Peace Dave Reagan, attorney Jonathan Martin and Ann Hair to the committee's five resident positions.

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