Q&A Holley Navarre Water System candidates

Four candidates are seeking election by the members (rate payers) to two seats on the Holley Navarre Water System’s (HNWS) board of directors. Absentee voting has already begun, and the official election will be held during HNWS’s annual meeting Jan. 21. All candidates were asked about their qualifications and the future of the water system.

1. Why do you want to serve on the Holley Navarre Water System board of directors? If elected or reelected, what would your top priority be?

2. What relevant experience, if any, would you bring to the board if elected?

3. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the water system? If elected, what do you intend to do to overcome this challenge?

4. Areas throughout the system’s service area continue to be without fire hydrants, which increases insurance costs and time required to fight fires. While system staff say there is a plan to expand fire hydrant coverage, it has been slow going. What would you do, if anything, to address this concern?

5. Holley Navarre Water System has opted not to partner with Santa Rosa County in funding millions of dollars toward a septic-to-sewer conversion project for hundreds of homes in Holley by the Sea. What is your stance on expanding sewer connection infrastructure for existing customers as well as future customers?

James Dabney

1. “Basically, to help straighten out some of the issues out there and to reduce the rates back down to what they need to be. When I was on the board before, they had a lot of personnel issues, and now they have fired a lot of people and are going after ones that are there. I will address those personnel issues and adjust rates back to where they need to be.”

2. “I was on the board previously and served two or three years. I was familiar with the financials of the system.”

3. “The biggest issue that I know of is the years of not planning for infrastructure. We have to start replacing some of the stuff that is there and aging. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed as far as infrastructure is concerned, including fire hydrants.”

4. “If I were elected, the staff that is there would spend more time working on those infrastructure needs instead of us subbing it out to contractors. We have all this equipment we spend money to maintain, but we are not using it for these needs.”

5. “If we have the ability to handle it and the customers are willing to pay for it as a normal tap fee we charge, we should be providing sewer. The bottom line is if you are building a new home, we should be providing sewer. If we run the line down there, we give the people the option to pay the tap. They shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Yvonne Harper

1. “It is important to me that the board continue to provide the proper leadership to ensure staff is trained, outfitted and empowered to do their jobs to the best of their ability so the customer receives the best possible service. It is also important to continue the progress the HNWS board has made in the past year without drama by working together as a board. I firmly believe the board’s role is to not micromanage the staff but to lead by putting the company and the community first – not their personal agendas or interests.”

2. “As the vice president of the board of directors for HNWS, I have worked with the board in determining the directives for the past year. Also, when first seated on the board, I immediately noticed a lack of standard operating procedures and job descriptions. As the personnel chair, I requested SOPs and job descriptions be drafted. Now for the first time, HNWS has both which provides structure, resulting in fiscal and personnel accountability.”

3. “The Eglin reuse project will continue to be a challenge, but it is one with a solution. Another challenge is to continue having a board that does not micromanage the employees but rather practices good governance so the company, to include staff and customers, have the best environment possible.”

4. “I think fire hydrants are an important aspect to fighting fires, but I do not believe all HNWS members should pay for individual fire hydrants. I think the HNWS and the fire department can work together to achieve this goal, with the fire department taking the lead and providing data and funding for this service because fighting fires is the fire department’s responsibility. Providing water/treating wastewater is HNWS’s responsibility.”

5. “I support septic-to-sewer, but this conversion program was specifically a Santa Rosa County initiative. HNWS never opted out of this project since it was never initiated by HNWS but by the county. However again, I support septic-to-sewer conversion not just in HBTS but the entire HNWS franchise, and I will work with the HNWS board to direct staff to review this project for future HNWS board action.”

Mark Miller

1. “I have served on the HNWS board of directors for the past two years and have seen a lot of improvements happen during that time. The board currently has a good makeup, and while we don’t always agree on everything, we are working together to pursue the goals that we have set for improvements that are needed in order to keep up with the growth Navarre is experiencing. One priority that I had when I got on the board was to improve the new customer experience so that they can sign up for new service without having to physically go into the office. We are very close to seeing that happen, and I would like to continue to work on that and other customer service improvements. Other priorities include water quality improvements, maintaining current rates and expanding sewer operations.”

2. “Because I have been on the Board for the past two years, I am very knowledgeable about the current issues that HNWS is facing and would like to continue to work to see some of the projects we have started come to fruition. I also have been one of the HNWS representatives on the Fairpoint Regional Utility System (board) that provides water to the south end of the county and would like to continue improvements with that while keeping our water rates low. I have experience on other boards of directors and can work well with the other HNWS directors to achieve positive results.”

3. “I think the biggest challenge currently is to maintain and expand our infrastructure without any rate increase to current customers. As our area continues to grow, increased demands on the system will be needed, and I don’t think the cost of that should be put on existing customers if at all possible. But it is a trade-off between keeping new service tap fees at reasonable levels and keeping water and sewer rates at their current levels. If reelected, I pledge to do everything I can to find ways to meet the needs of the water system without a rate increase.”

4. “We are in the process of identifying some of the higher priority areas that need fire hydrant coverage. We are looking at options to upgrade the water lines in the areas where the service is needed the most. What I am not in favor of is having all of HNWS rate payers bear the cost of upgrading the service in areas that will only benefit some of our customers. Those that will benefit by having lower insurance rates should bear at least some of the cost of expanding the fire hydrant coverage.”

5. “That was actually a Santa Rosa County project that was to be partially funded with Restore Act money, but there was not enough funding available to complete the entire project. I am in full support of HNWS expanding sewer lines in areas that need them, especially in low lying areas and waterfront areas where there are septic tanks in failure and affecting our water quality. The challenge is that it is difficult to require someone to connect to sewer that is on septic, so we would have to have enough users wanting to make that connection in order for a project like that to be successful. I would like to pursue additional state funding and grants to offset part of the cost.”

Grant Summers

1. “I want to serve to be a voice for the people and their concerns. To make sure that the customer is getting what they paid for and want.”

2. “I have worked in the water/wastewater field for about three years now. I have my wastewater C certification and am working toward my B certification. I work at an advanced wastewater treatment plant.”

3. “Budget/money, purpose a budget plan. Figure how to make the golf course profitable.”

4. “I would suggest setting a goal, try to get 5 or 6 (which ever we decide) fire hydrants done per year for the first year. We can then reevaluate the following year to see if that number needs to increase so we can get the hydrants to service areas and decrease insurance costs. We need to help firefighters do their job in a timely fashion.”

5. “I am neutral on this topic. One side, I think it’s a good idea because Holley Navarre can profit from the revenue from the sewer. Other side, I am against it because the homeowner should have the option whether to switch or not. The homeowner should keep the septic tank up to standards i.e., not leaking into the ground and be pumped out when recommended.”

As seen in the Dec. 12 issue of Navarre Press.
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