Canyon takes down Facebook criticisms

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The Prairie.

The Prairie.

As the blistering days of a summer accompanied with record-setting heat trail away, residents of Canyon are still living with the side effects. Drought conditions are afflicting the city for the second straight year. City officials had no choice on July 3 but to enact stage two of the state-mandated drought contingency plan.

According to the official ordinance, written in the year 2000 as precautionary measure under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the city is obligated to shift from the first to the second stage when the city’s total water consumption has reached 75 percent of total production capacity for five consecutive days. The plan requires that citizens, both residential and commercial, comply with odd and even watering days and other restrictions for non-essential water uses, or be fined steeply.

After being notified of the new rules and goals through an obligatory press release, water bill inserts and a Facebook post on the City of Canyon’s official social media page, junior Theatre Education major and Canyon resident Andrew Young said he was troubled when he drove past the city’s new north entrance at 1:45 p.m. on a hot August afternoon to see the sprinkler system running full force – a direct contradiction of the watering rules.

“I drove by at 1:45 in the middle of the afternoon, and again at 3:00, and the entrance was still being watered,” Young said. “At 5:30, while the grass was getting a rare drink of water from the sky, (the entrance) was still being watered. At 8:00 the same night, the same system was still running.”

Frustrated, Young took the initiative to voice his concerns on the city’s official Facebook page.

“In less than 48-hours, my post had gotten, at last count, 712 likes and over 20 comments,” Young said. “I take ‘likes’ to mean people are agreeing with what I have to say, and with 700+ likes in two days, that’s a lot of people saying they agree something needs to be done about the issue of water being wasted. Many of the people commenting and liking I didn’t even know, people of all ages.”

The city removed Young’s Facebook post within 48-hours.

“We want Facebook to be an avenue for the public to ask legitimate questions, not bash us,” Director of Public Works Dan Reese said. “To keep (Young’s post) from spiraling out of control, we needed to remove it. It was the only way we saw we could stop the flooding.”

Young said one of the individuals leaving feedback on his post was City Manager Randy Criswell, who was able to shed some immediate clarity on the subject before the post was taken down.

“I appreciate that we have Facebook access to our city council members to communicate,” Young said. “It’s nice to know that we can get immediate feedback, even on the weekend. It’s nice the city has the ability to communicate through a social network that the majority of the city regularly uses.”

According to Young, Criswell was able to explain what he referred to as exceptions for the plan, such as individuals or businesses that have new grass to maintain, which would include the city’s entrance. Reese said these exceptions, referred to as variances in the ordinance, were never advertised.

“ We wanted it to be more word of mouth,” Reese said. “(The city) didn’t want to create a snowball effect where people were requesting variances for something that wasn’t necessary.”

Reese further explained that the entrance was still a TxDot project and didn’t belong to the city yet. According to Reese, the contractor in charge of the new entrance had to submit a request for a variance just like anyone else in the city had the ability to do.

“With as much time and money that is invested in that project, it was the fiscally responsible thing to do for the city,” Reese said. “We should be the stewards to do everything we can, (the city) needs to be the good example.”

Reese and Young both conceded that conserving the city’s water is a critically important issue.

“This problem is bigger than Canyon and I’m glad something is being done about it here,” Young said. “Conserving water is a global issue that needs to be taken seriously.”