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The Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility is one branch of local government we donít worry about. They just keep plugging along, doing their job, without fanfare or major problems.

The utilityís commission approved a $6.02 million budget for 2012 operations on Wednesday, including $1.27 million in planned capital improvements. Thatís known as investing in your future.

Managing sewage collections, sewer lines and sewage treatment is not the choice topic to consider while eating breakfast and reading the daily newspaper, but thatís what the utility does and does well.

The commission does its job of oversight, the management runs a rock solid operation and the employees do their job. Thatís what local government is charged with doing, but it does not always work that way.

Utility manager Ken Johnsonís budget proposal included $470,000 for sewer rehabilitation, $207,000 in pump station improvements, upgrading construction equipment and technology upgrades.

Johnson has sought money annually for sewer rehabilitation to upgrade the aging infrastructure, making improvements in specific locations to stretch the utilityís assets as far as possible.

The number of sewer stoppages was down this year, continuing a trend for several years.

The planned $45,000 allocation for a technical service global information force main study will help identify force main pipes in need of replacement. The underground pipes are pressurized and do not have manholes, making it difficult to examine with video cameras, a common technique.

Utility employees will receive merit raises because of the work they put in that often goes unnoticed until there is a problem. Benefits include an employee tuition reimbursement program for those who want to upgrade their skills.

Impasse continues

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Officials in the Lincoln County town of Gould are still feuding and four employees, including Mayor Earnest Nash Jr., have not been paid since before Christmas.

Alderman Harry Hall, one individual authorized to sign the checks, has refused to put his signature on the paychecks after Nash refused to accept the City Councilís appointment of a new recorder-treasurer.

Former recorder-treasurer Mary Prewett, who was appointed to fill the position in February, resigned on Dec. 9, contending she was frightened by Nash.

The council met Dec. 13 and voted to appoint Pam Barley Gibson to the recorder-treasurerís position. However, Nash, rejected the appointment and had the locks changed on the recorder-treasurerís City Hall office. Nash also reportedly threatened to have Gibson arrested during the council meeting if she tried to show up for work.

Nash maintains the four are not being paid because Hall and a second council member, Sonja Farley, are refusing to sign the checks.

Nash said the council voted ďmonths agoĒ to put council members Sonja Farley, Harry Hall and Prewett on the list of those authorized to sign checks. He contended Prewett paid the council members and herself before she left the office.

Since four members of the council ó a two-thirds majority ó voted to appoint Gibson, she can legally take office. The four represent the number needed to override Nashís veto in January.

The feuding at Gould City Hall began months before Prewett resigned, with Nash vetoing numerous ordinances and resolutions. He has also vetoed council overrides and issues the council had not considered.