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Mayor unhappy with comments about city manager in column

Mayor Ed Prilucik let known his feelings this past Monday night about a personal column that appeared in the Daily Sun News this past Wednesday.

The column chastised City Manager Bob Stockwell and the City Council for not letting the public decide on the issue of privatizing the city's water and wastewater services.

"I want the public to know the city manger is directed by Council," said Prilucik. "He is doing exactly what he was told to do."

The mayor then pointed out his displeasure with the column that he says inaccurately portrayed what was going on with the privatization issue and its comments on Stockwell. The mayor wasn't specific about comments in the column.

"I didn't appreciate that and I know he didn't either," said Prilucik, pointing to Stockwell.

The mayor also was displeased with how the Daily Sun News has yet to print a retraction of the Feb. 23 column.

Stockwell offered his own comments this morning about what the mayor said at Monday's meeting and some of the comments made in the piece by Daily Sun News writer Melissa Dekker.

"Melissa accuses me of hand picking Veolia and that Sunnyside will be the fifth community I have brought Veolia to," said Stockwell. "While I disagree with her assertion that the final decision needs to be made by the citizens in an election, I also recognize it is an opinion shared by many."

Stockwell said the issue he has is that Dekker bases her opinion on some assertions that are "plain wrong." Stockwell said the problem he had with the column was that he asserts no effort was made to find out the truth about the issue.

"My only experience with Veolia is in Sunnyside since last summer," sad Stockwell. "I have been involved with two cities that contracted out operations. The first was Great Falls, Montana."

Stockwell said when he started out as city manager in Montana, Great Falls was in the midst of a multi-year contract with Enviro Tech for the operation of its wastewater treatment plant.

"Many years after I left Great Falls and through several mergers and acquisitions, Enviro Tech became Veolia and they currently operate the wastewater treatment plant for Great Falls," said Stockwell.

Stockwell said his second dealing with privatization came as city manager in Alamogordo, N.M. Stockwell said the city selected a firm called PSG to operate the water and wastewater system similar to what is proposed in Sunnyside.

"The current contractor for Alamogordo is a company called Severn Trent, which is not affiliated with Veolia," said Stockwell.

Stockwell said in Alamogordo city officials did a national search for contractors interested in providing privatization services, such as Sunnyside did in its process.

"In Sunnyside, there was a committee of five individuals who made the recommendation to negotiate with Veolia," said Stockwell. "There was no 'hand picking' and no predisposition to negotiate with Veolia."

Stockwell said in his 30 years of city management, he has been involved in contracting out water and wastewater systems management for less than five years.

"The remaining 25 years have been spent managing city run water and wastewater systems," said Stockwell. "After a very thorough process of evaluation and very detailed reference checks of Veolia, my recommendation is that the citizens of Sunnyside will benefit from a combination of cost savings and increased expertise by contracting out the operation of our water and wastewater systems."

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