The ceremony was postponed last week due to inclement weather, but the weather this week was sunny and mild.
Festivities began at 11:30 a.m. with a special Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce chamber coffee, held in the new facility’s classroom.
The chamber coffee was attended by more than 50 local business people, current and former commissioners, and representatives from the construction team that made the new facility a reality.
City Manager Nick Hernandez spoke briefly, providing some background on the process by which the plant came to fruition and addressing how much longer it would be before the city’s water could be produced solely by the new facility.
“We have to run both (plants together) for 60 days,” he said. “With any system that is (this complex), it takes some time to get started.”
Immediately after the coffee, the facility was opened to the public with a dedication ceremony that took place in front of the main entrance.
All of the involved parties were recognized at this juncture. Hernandez thanked all of the city commissioners who were involved with the project, some of whom served on the City Commission as far back as 2006.
All five current commissioners — Mayor Dan Jurkovich, Vice Mayor Jay Warren, and Commissioners Kanyon Gingher, Duane Oestmann and Karen Welch — were on hand for the event.
Also in attendance throughout the day were former city commissioners Mell Kuhn, Dotty Smith, Jean Snell and Charles Tweedy III.
Representatives of Burns & McDonnell, the engineering firm that designed the facility, and Walters-Morgan Construction, the primary contractor for the project, also spoke. After an invocation by Pastor Dennis Voth, the Chamber of Commerce held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
The crowd then dispersed back into the building to enjoy refreshments and a series of tours of the plant’s offices and processing facility.
Warren, who has served as mayor twice before and will do so again next year, addressed the crowd during the dedication.
He spoke of former commissioners Patrick McDonald and Snell, who joined him in working toward a new treatment plant. He also acknowledged Kuhn and Smith, as well as Chad Giles and Joel Hockenbury, both of whom resigned before completing their commission terms.
“(In 2011), we also made the most important decision of our political careers: We hired a young visionary named Nickolaus Hernandez to bring our city into the 21st century and chart a course for our future, for the next 50 years and even beyond,” Warren said.
He gave most of his praise not to city officials or construction workers, but to the citizens of Arkansas City.
“Although I have been a part of this process since the very beginning, and many know I am very passionate about this project and what it means for the future of Arkansas City, I want to emphasize that today is not about me,” Warren said.
“Nor is it about the five men I named who served with me on the commission, but since have moved on to other pursuits in their lives. New faces have joined me on the commission and seen the need for this facility, but it is not about them, either.”
“Our biggest asset is our citizens. While I believe this Water Treatment Facility will become our second-biggest asset in the years to come, it could not exist without the support of the citizens who voted consistently for the commissioners who led the way,” Warren said.
He also acknowledged that it could not have been built without the more than 5,000 customers who pay their water bills every month.
“This building is a monument to the vision and dedication of our citizens, and I hope it will stand to serve them far past its expected lifetime,” Warren concluded.
“Furthermore, I hope each and every citizen will swell with pride when they drive by at night and see that sign (on the clearwell) lit up, like a clarion call of our collective determination, as a reminder that truly, ‘Water Grows Our Future.’”