The Sylacauga City Council interviewed the final five applicants for the Sylacauga Utilities Board vacancy at a work session Monday.
The candidates interviewed Monday included, in order, Ed Croyle, Brad Porch, Anthony Williams, Michael Landers and Amanda Green.
Croyle said he felt his experience managing church budgets would be valuable on the board.
“You need to re-evaluate it every so often — the costs, and the vision of where you want to go,” he said. “You have to constantly look to the future if you don’t want to stagnate.”
Croyle said he feels the utilities board should continue to explore ways to maintain its products in a good way to keep costs down for customers.
“Passing costs on to customers is not always the answer,” he said. “Sometimes you can explore and find other ways to minimize costs. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money down the road. Sometimes you cut costs to maintain efficiency.”
Croyle said he has experience working and training committees.
“When I worked with committees, it was as a leader, not a dictator,” he said. “You learn to work together until you reach a conclusion. I want to become part of the committee and enhance what is there.”
Porch, the incumbent Utilities Board member who has applied to be reappointed, said he felt the best aspect of the board is its vision with the five- and 10-year plans.
“We are looking at employees who will retire in that time so we can train replacements, and also at technology to make ourselves more reliable,” he said. “I think we need to work on our customer service. We’ve made a lot of strides and continue to work on it.”
Porch said an aspect of the board he likes is that the members work very smoothly together.
“We have work sessions to discuss business and meetings to conduct business,” he said. “And we take any money that is left over and reinvest it in infrastructure.”
Williams said the first thing he would do serving on the board is to leverage what the board has and innovate processes to stay on the leading edge of technology.
“The board has done an outstanding job of keeping rates low and building infrastructure,” he said. “My plan would be improvements and more communication with the council and other boards to promote and market Sylacauga.”
Williams said he would diversify, have new marketing strategies, and use customer surveys to see where the board could improve.
“I think my best qualification is to help ensure the IT systems and infrastructure are top-notch,” he said. “I have experience in IT and security for the data, such as testing for vulnerabilities to hackers.”
Williams said he feels the board’s internet rates could be more competitive.
“I think Cloud development would be important as well,” he said.
Landers said he feels the board should keep pace and not necessarily expand, but perhaps better utilize what is already in place.
“We have a huge information system platform up and running,” he said. “I think we could take a look at alternate energy options — I think a logical step for the community would be to look at energy cell use.”
Landers said he favors the reclamation idea for the Mill Village and eastern side of town, but it would require partnering with the government to do it, and he sees the board as a partner.
“The best aspect is that it has been well-run and managed so far,” he said. “I think the board might forget they are also corporate citizens sometimes, and could be more responsive to community needs beyond the services they provide and the check they send to the city.”
Landers said he doesn’t feel the board has been aggressive enough in seeking federal funding.
“My experience in the political world would help me in this role,” he said. “I make things happen. I think if you create that feeling we once had, where Sylacauga is the place to live and raise families, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think the Utilities Board could be an integral part of that catalyst.”
Landers said he feels the board should expand its internet and technology sources.
“There is no reason not to use solar energy or redevelop the community with fuel cells,” he said. “But I don’t feel we should get into the cable TV business.”
Green said the reason she became interested in the board is her concern about fault lines, aging sewer systems and rapid sinkhole development.
“I think the board’s best aspect is great service when it comes to power outages — they keep it going,” she said.
Green said she feels the board could work on its communication with the public.
“When you walk up to guys on the street, they can’t tell you what’s going on — I feel like they are censored,” she said. “We need more communication. There is no sense in fixing the roads until we fix the problem underground (sewer system and sinkholes).”
Green said she would like to see building codes require new housing to incorporate more solar and other alternate energy sources to lessen the impact on the Utilities Board.
“I’m trying to find a bigger picture in addressing the sinkholes that are connecting with the fault line,” she said.
The City Council is expected to act on the Utilities Board appointment at its Sept. 3. meeting.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.