Water works 101

Before 1970, residents of Holley used pitcher pumps for their water source. But a small group of Holley residents saw the need for potable water and stepped forward to form what is the Holley Navarre Water System. With funding from the Farmers’ Home Administration, they began laying the pipes to bring water into their homes.

A 99 year exclusive franchise agreement was given to HNWS by Santa Rosa County Nov. 10, 1970, authorizing them to build, expand, operate and maintain the water system to provide services to the public for domestic, commercial and other uses. And in 1986 a new franchise agreement from Santa Rosa County was enacted to replace the one signed in 1970.

Currently, HNWS is not subject to oversight from the Public Services Commission, an organization that exercises regulatory authority over utilities and ensures reasonable rates are charged for services. In fact, HNWS is not currently regulated by any authority.

In 2012, HNWS purchased The Club at Hidden Creek after owner Meadowbrook was forced to put the course up for sale. The purchase ensured HNWS could continue to dispose of wastewater on the course and use it as a spray field. The amount of disposal has caused concern from Hidden Creek residents who live along the golf course property and golfers alike as play has been reportedly disrupted by holes being closed due to flooding and overspray of wastewater.

In 2014, the company added to its portfolio again establishing Municipal Engineering Services, Inc. to provide services to the utility and other systems. For more than 25 years that work was provided by Fabre Engineering, but in 2014 two of the company’s longtime engineers made the move to HNWS under MESI.

Fairpoint Regional Utilities

In 1999, three water utilities, Gulf Breeze, Midway and Holley Navarre came together to form Fairpoint Regional Utilities, headquartered within Holley Navarre Water System. The three utilities purchase water from Fairpoint.

While Fairpoint’s articles of incorporation state all three entities are equal partners in the company, it is managed, operated and maintained by HNWS. In fact, in addition to sharing an address, the two share a general manager, Paul Gardner who is compensated by both companies.

Duties of the board

The bylaws of Holley Navarre Water System speak clearly on the roles of the officers on the board and their overall responsibilities.

The board as a whole is responsible for approving members, hiring and firing staff or allowing that duty to be delegated, borrow money, establish the policies and procedures of the company, order the annual financial audit and determine the rates and connection fees.

The president presides over the meetings of the company and board and is authorized to perform all acts and duties usually performed by an executive and presiding officer, sign all membership certificates and other documents of the company as directed by the board.

The vice president will perform the duties of the president should he or she be absent or become unable to perform. In case of death or disability of the present, the board may declare the office vacant and elect a successor.

The secretary/treasurer keeps the records of all meetings of the company and the board and has general supervision of the books and records of the company. This position also is responsible for issuing the membership certificates with the president. In addition, the secretary/treasurer is responsible for issuing all notices required. He must keep a record of all members of the company, address and date of issuance, surrender, cancellation or forfeiture.

Election process complicated

The election process at Holley Navarre Water System has historically been complicated and the 2018 election is no exception. While the bylaws state proxies may be used, the company has long relied on the proxy system for the elections.

The 2018 election process still involves proxies (or members giving away their vote to a current board member or candidate), absentee ballots and on-site voting. But this year, the company has retained an accounting firm to receive proxies and absentee ballots, with the intent of legitimizing the election. That move was spearheaded by vice president James Calkins and board member Ricki Desantis.

Each member (customer) will receive a proxy in the mail with a return addressed envelope. If the member chooses to give away their vote, they can mark the sheet, sign and return it in the envelope. They can also turn their proxy in at Holley Navarre Water System, but only in the locked box located in the customer service lobby. Any proxies dropped in the night depository will be deemed invalid. The member should also be aware that candidates not currently serving as board members (William Goulet and Daryl Lynchard) are not listed on the proxy but their names can be written in.

If a member wishes to cast their own vote, they can vote at Holley Navarre Water System’s office located at 8574 Turkey Bluff Road in Navarre Tuesday, Jan. 16. All names of candidates will appear on the ballot and each member may cast one vote.

Members can also vote by absentee ballot and must call Holley Navarre Water System (939-2427) to obtain the ballot.

Will Goulet, candidate for the board and owner of Navarre Auto Repair  served on the board from 2011 – 2015 and was president of the board for three of those years.

“We never had this drama and bickering when I was on the board,” Goulet said. “We always came together for the good of the membership and performed our duties. Law enforcement was never required at any of our meetings, nor attorneys. We conducted ourselves professionally.”

“I’m all for transparency and for the members being part of it,” Goulet continued. “I want to bring the good back out in the water system. We have the best employees in the state and it is sad that the board has decided to go down this path.”

The path Goulet refers to is the one that has left a bad taste in the mouth of both members and board members, each meeting growing more contentious than the last. In the last month, the board majority voted to remove a board member just weeks after issuing him a certificate qualifying him to be on the board. The group also tried to push through a $7 million refinancing of Fairpoint Regional Utilities, a cooperative made up of three water companies. The move was met with resistance and has been tabled until after the election.

 

Featured in the Jan. 4 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.

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