Engaging the Community

A Kansas city is taking what looks like an old-fashioned town hall approach to renewing a focus on wastewater and water infrastructure.

In a bylined article in the Arkansas City Traveler newspaper, city manager Nick Hernandez outlined a “Water Grows Our Future” initiative that covers the city’s wastewater collection and treatment, water treatment and distribution, and stormwater management programs.

In September, the city commission hosted a community forum on the topic. “Water is vital to the success of nearly every part of our life,” Hernandez wrote. “When we get up in the night for a glass of water and turn on the tap, clean, drinkable water flows from the faucet. While we were sleeping, our local businesses continued to use water for the production of their products, allowing jobs for our friends and neighbors. It is an uninteresting fact of modern life until, one day, no water comes out.”

Hernandez went on to observe that residents often take water-related systems for granted until there is a major problem, like a water main break, sewage backup or flood.

“A well-maintained, reliable water infrastructure system is vital to Arkansas City,” Hernandez wrote. “Yet despite its importance, our aging water infrastructure system has suffered from a lack of investment, delayed maintenance and insufficient resources. ... Like the homeowner who postpones repairs until the roof leaks, we jeopardize our entire local economy when we fail to maintain and upgrade our existing water infrastructure.” He asked:

  • Do we as a community understand how we got here?
  • Is our community committed to addressing our aging and failing water infrastructure in a way that will last another 50 to 100 years?
  • Are we willing to pay for it?

“If steps are not taken now to address the infrastructure needs at hand, the community will not grow, and if it is not growing, it is declining. Join us for a communitywide discussion to help us all to answer the questions above.”

Engaging the public in this way helps further the aims of The Fire Chief Project:

  • Raise clean-water operators to the status of the fire chief
  • Make kids grow up wanting to be clean-water operators


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