Retired city administrator joins struggling sewer board today

Darrell Todd Maurina

Retired city administrator joins struggling sewer board today

Gary Porter is the newest board member of the Pulaski County Sewer District.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Oct. 20, 2009) — When its board convenes today, for the first time in months, the Pulaski County Sewer District will have a full complement of five board members. The newest member, Gary Porter, will join a sewer board that has been a target of controversy for years.

County commissioners are responsible for appointing the sewer board members, but have had considerable difficulty finding people willing to serve on a board that has been subjected to widespread public criticism for various reasons and is also involved in a lawsuit against the city of Waynesville over who can provide sewer service in areas which are now inside the city limits but were not at the point the sewer district was organized.

The specific issue in that lawsuit focuses on Ernst Cycles, a Yamaha and Honda motorcycle dealership whose owner moved his business from Saint Robert to Buckhorn and requested annexation into the city of Waynesville so he could have sewer service because the sewer district doesn’t have sewer lines in that area. However, the owner of the Witmore Farms property in Buckhorn also requested annexation into the city and can’t move ahead with planned commercial and residential developments until he obtains sewer service.

Porter, now retired, had been the city administrator for St. Robert and later for Waynesville. He’s also been an advocate of expanding sewer service for many years.

In a Sept. 28 meeting when commissioners appointed him to the sewer board, he said that “if it had been up to me, the sewer would have been out there 30 years ago.”

Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall has tried to appoint board members who are not only residents of Cullen Township — the rural unincorporated areas surrounding Waynesville and St. Robert, and extending roughly from Buckhorn to Devil’s Elbow — but who also are sewer district customers. At this point, the sewer board chairman, Bob Simpson of Crocker, is the only board member left who is not a Cullen Township resident. Porter is a Cullen Township resident but is not a sewer district customer since he lives in an area where he can’t connect to the sewer.

Ransdall said at the county commission meeting when Porter was appointed that he didn’t like some of the other qualifications the sewer board members want him and the other county commissioners to follow.

“The board came in and presented us with a list of board member qualifications. I have some fundamental problems with this; as you know, the statute clearly says the county commission appoints the members,” Ransdall said.

Ransdall has some cautions for Porter about his relationship with people who the sewer board has contracted to provide services.

“We all know the sewer board is the governing body,” Ransdall said. “Engineers are great and attorneys are great, but we all know that the board needs to be in charge.”

Porter didn’t respond to Ransdall in detail.

“I want to be careful how much I say before I actually am on there,” Porter said.

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