8/12/2014 10:54:00 AM Q&A with Vice Mayor Don Dent
Three Williams city councilmen and mayor head into primary election with no challengers, despite lack of opponents the News checks in with incumbents for a quick state of the city update
Williams Vice Mayor Don Dent stands on the porch at his insurance agency in downtown Williams. Dent is running for city council uncontested in the Aug. 26 primary election. Ryan Williams/WGCN
I think there's enough important issues still before the council that need to be finished before I'm finished. Obviously water is one of them. It's a huge issue that we've got to get corrected. If we stay in this drought we've got to have enough well water supply to live off of, so that's an important issue.
What has the council achieved during the last four years?
I think the council's done a good job of balancing the monies we have with the projects that have needed to get taken care of, which is always a hard thing. There's never enough money, there's always more projects, but I think we've done a good job of balancing that.
List one problem the council faced and how it solved it.
The water/wastewater operation would be a good example. We had not only a lack of qualified personnel to deal with that but issues with the operation itself. When we stepped back and looked at the overall operation, we decided to actually contract part of that with somebody that could supply us with the needed expertise on a contract basis and yet still allow our guys to do the actual operation of the distribution system and the collection system for wastewater.
I think we're seeing some improvements from that and I think we'll continue to see some improvements from that. Instead of just trying to run out and hire more people, which for us is hard to do with those specialized tasks, we kind of looked outside the box and said, "Maybe we're doing this the wrong way, maybe we should look at something different."
What challenges, besides water, does Williams face in the future?
Well the water crisis has kind of created some financial issues that we're going to have to continue to deal with. We're looking at some WIFA (Water Infrastructure Finance Authority) loans, which if we do that in order to drill another well or two if necessary, are obviously going to create the need to raise rates or do something different to compensate for that. I think people will understand that if we're going to deal with that water issue it's going to cost money, that bill's going to be paid somehow. But we haven't had a long enough discussion to know for sure exactly what that's going to be or where it's going to go. But that's going to create some financial strain on us. At some point we have to deal with that. It's a large amount of money that has to be paid by a small amount of people, so we'll figure out whether it's in rate structure or where it goes.
Why do you think no one is running against you?
I think either people are satisfied with the job the current council and the current mayor are doing and are comfortable with that so nobody challenged. I also talked to a couple of different people who don't want to put up with the hassle and the problems that go along with it. I've heard that from several people, "I wouldn't do what you do for anything," and "I don't know how you continue to do it after all these years." There's a certain amount of pressure in the job, but there's also a certain amount of pleasure when you can help the community. So I think it could be a combination of those two. I like to think that people are at least somewhat happy with the job we're doing. You're never going to please everybody. There's always critics and complainers, but I think that's part of it. I think if there were real problems there would have been lots of people jumping up to run.
What are your goals for the next four years?
Obviously solve the water issue. It's going to take new wells. We can't continue to rely strictly on the lakes as much as we have. We've been lucky to get through this crisis without any more problems than we have so far.
Number two is to continue to try and get our water/wastewater operation in order and running smoothly, whether it continues to be with contract or whether we try and hire into those positions again. The water and wastewater operators, it takes a lot of schooling and a lot of time for them to get the certificates. And the problem that we were in is we only had one or two people who had those certificates, and when they retired, it's hard to replace them. Apparently we're not the only small town that's run into this, and this is why this company's decided to go out and contract. They'll supply that expertise and the licenses that are required to help us run our system. So we'll continue to monitor that over the next couple years and see where we need to go.
Williams needs more multifamily housing. We need apartments, town homes, condos, because we've got several new employers bringing jobs to town and there's a real lack of housing for those employees. So if we bring the jobs to town but we don't get the employees to live here, we don't get to see the real benefit that we should. So we need to be working on trying to find somebody that wants to come in here and build some multifamily housing. I think the demand's going to be here for it.