“The runoff looked like a river; it ran for days — you could have taken a kayak through the park,” said Councilman Dale Skrobarcek.
One-third of the water in the tower was drained through normal usage. When water department workers received notice that the entire tank needed to be drained so work could begin on the 50-year-old tank, the manual gate valve was opened to drain the remaining water.
Then something went wrong.
The manual valve had never been closed since the water tower was built.
“On Friday, it had slowed down a lot,” said Bruce Dupray, water superintendent. “But every time we went back to check it, we could get two or three more turns on it.”
Dupray said the valve was “tough and not easy to close.” The superintendent thought the valve was closed and left Saturday morning to spend the holiday weekend in Louisiana. The worker scheduled to be on call took vacation and turned the weekend duty over to another worker.
“This is all on you,” Skrobarcek said. “You are their boss. They’re just workers.”
“It wasn’t for them to work it out,” said Council member Karen Watts. “As supervisor, it’s your responsibility to work it out.”
As the water began to rise in the park and water pressure dropped off in neighborhoods, residents began to call, according to Councilman Joey Heard.
Numerous leaks appeared, according to Skrobarcek and Heard. Both said they believed it was a direct result of the fall and rise of water pressure.
Dupray said he knew of only four leaks, two of which began before the tower was drained.
“You worked good under pressure and then you dropped the ball,” Heard said. “Personally, I don’t think you should be employed tomorrow.”
“I agree,” said Karen Watts.
Since the spill was accidental, Donald Kubicek, city attorney, said he did not think it would be considered a violation but perhaps a warning might be issued.
“I don’t know the answer,” Kubicek said.
Councilman Frank Hosey said Dupray should have met with the mayor so that everyone would know who was in charge and who was going to answer the phone.
Dupray said he called the worker twice Sunday afternoon but never got an answer. He returned Monday.
Watts made a motion to terminate Dupray effective Wednesday morning. Watts and Heard voted to terminate but Frank Hosey, Dale Skrobarcek and Lenny Anzaldua voted no.
“I don’t like firing anybody,” Anzaldua said. “Jobs are hard to find now.”
Anzaldua offered another motion for Dupray to come up with a written operations instructions for his department. If Dupray doesn’t “act like a supervisor,” then he will be reduced to a worker position or released in 30 days.
“Who you going to write it to?” asked Mayor Ray Jaso. “I don’t want to hear it... Put it in writing and bring it to Callie (Shreckengost, city secretary) or bring it to the council, I don’t want to hear it.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Dupray refused to go into an executive session behind closed doors for the discussion and opted for the open meeting discussion.