Monterey Town Council Holds Informational Meeting
Although few voices were raised during Monday evening’s informational meeting held by the Monterey Town Council, it was likely due to the venue more than the temperament of the crowd. A palpable sense of frustration and confusion was present during the meeting, which was held at the Monterey Presbyterian Church, due to a last minute change in location as a result of the Highland County Courthouse being closed to the public until further notice. Town water system customers, many without water, and all under a boil water advisory, came to get a better understanding of the cause of the situation, along with the current status and plans for fixing the issues.
Mayor Rich Holman opened the meetings with introductions, then turned the microphone over to town employee Mike Isles, who recited the history of the problems which had brought the town to this point. A detailed account of these problems was reported in an Allegheny Mountain Radio story which aired Monday, and is available on our website. Mr. Isles reported that the company Roanoke Pump had arrived in town and begun work on well number 3, hoping to be able to address issues which had been causing the steady decline in its production. Members of the Virginia Department of Health were also on hand, and they reported some trash was found in the inlet. The company is replacing all the equipment at the well except the pump, which was not available at this time, but will be installed as soon as it arrives. The company will also examine well number 1, which had been pumping nothing but air. That pump is currently shut off, with hopes that the aquifer will recharge – Mr. Isles said he plans to test it again on Wednesday. He left after his remarks to go back to assist repairs.
When the timetable of resolutions was brought up, the council and experts said they hoped the repairs underway would result in better conditions by Wednesday, but a date restoration of full service is impossible to predict because of the as yet unknowns about problems in the system. They did speak of a plan to truck water in to assist in recharging the system once the well work is completed, and noted testing will occur to ensure the safety of the water.
During the public comment period, speakers peppered the council with comments and questions, which ranged from “how could this have happened” to “who is going to pay for this”. Several speakers noted lack of maintenance and familiarity with the system, and a failure to heed warnings of a pending issue as contributing to the issue. Also apparent was a frustration at lack of communication and outreach during the crisis. The council answered as best it could, not always to the satisfaction of the crowd.
Before the meeting was expanded to become informational in nature, it had originally been planned for the council to visit the adoption of an ordinance mandating the conservation of water, which they passed unanimously. Under the provisions of the 30 day ban on activities such as watering lawns, washing cars or filling swimming pools, infractions could bring up to a $100 fine. The council also asked the non-essential activities, such as washing clothes, be curtailed as much as possible, although these are not punishable offenses.