Councilors Plead Ignorance by John Earp
Over the past several months, there have been three Jal City Council meetings in which the issue has been raised concerning the longstanding arrangement that the City has had with the Jal Country Club over the sale of city’s treated sewage (graywater) for irrigation of the golf course. The Jal Country Club golf course, quite obviously, cannot exist without irrigation in our semiarid climate. In recent meetings of the City Council, the public has asked city councilors about the status of the graywater the City has been giving to the country club. As these councilors have not been able to provide answers, The Jal Record has taken on a fact-finding mission to bring you some answers. The Jal Record sent a request to the City for public records in accordance with the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The limited amount of public records that we received from the City has shed light on several things. All of these documents we have received from the City are public records, and will be made available for your perusal online by The Jal Record. Citizens have an inherent right to know what its government is doing.
According to documents obtained by IPRA request, City Manager Bob Gallagher responded to a question from a concerned citizen in an email dated August 2, 2017, saying that “The project is not a city project and the city did not pay a penny for this project.” However, according to documents obtained by The Jal Record from the City by IPRA request, including invoices and photocopies of checks and check stubs written by the city, the City of Jal has in fact hired and paid contractors JDLR & Associates and Marron & Associates a total so far of $10,987 for project coordination, information gathering, coordination of insurance policy, preparation and submittal of permit applications, as well as coordination with Marron and Associates on environmental and archaeological clearances, and coordination with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT). So the claim by Mr. Gallagher that the city has not paid a penny for this project is shown to be false in his reply to the concerned citizen.
Records obtained from the City by means of IPRA request have further confirmed is that the City has applied for and obtained an NMDOT right-of-way agreement for a pipeline extending several miles northwest of town along the Carlsbad Highway. The pipeline itself appears to have already been laid along Highway 128 for several miles west of town, and originates at the retention ponds across from the Jal Country Club. The NMDOT permit also shows the city had to provide liability insurance at a cost to the city and also shows that the city is liable for the private company’s line and for any property contamination or damage that may occur along the pipeline.
In an email dated July 29th from Mayor Chance to the city manager, the mayor asked Mr. Gallagher, if this shouldn’t come before the council? Gallagher replied, “We have not entered into any agreements,” stating that there is “nothing to bring to the council.” However, documents obtained from the City of Jal by The Jal Record via IPRA request reveal that there have in fact been two agreements between the city and JDLR directly related to the project, hiring that firm to get NMDOT and an amendment for them to hire subcontractors and to facilitate the liability insurance on the project. This contract was approved for a budget adjustment by the city council to the tune of $50,000. So, the council members saying they have no knowledge of it seems at the very least to be rather misleading to the public. If they had no knowledge of it, why did they approve it? If they approved it, why do they have no knowledge of it?
Further, the Secretary of State website shows the Jal Water Alliance, LLC has been formed on June 4, 2017 by Dale Johnson. An email from consultant Wayne Price to Bob Gallagher, Van Myrick and Dale Johnson, dated July 13, 2017, in reference to Lea County saying the City did not need a right-of-way to place the pipeline under North Third Street south of the country club, said, “Hey take a look at this, it looks like we are free to go.” In another email dated June 26, 2017, Wayne Price, consultant, states, “I am a consultant working for a public-private partnership venture that involves the City of Jal, NM. We have been working with the city manager Mr. Bob Gallagher and their utility director, Van Myrick.” In another email dated July 21, 2017 from Dale Johnson of Mobile H2O Services to Van Myrick, Johnson asked the city public works director Van Myrick if it was okay to not bury the line across the city property. In response, Myrick stated, “That is correct.”
In an email from Wayne Price dated June 15, 2017, to Bob Gallagher, Van Myrick, Jared Davis, and Dale Johnson, states, “I understand we are in the closing moments of pumping water.” An email dated March 29, 2017, from Wayne Price to Van Myrick, Dale Johnson, Jared Davis, and Bob Gallagher, states, “I like that, excellent. The first phase will be above ground.” On March 29, 2017, an email from Van Myrick states, “I agree with Bob. Lay down at first and bury later.” If no agreement existed, it certainly is implied, and taxpayer money is definitely being spent.