Tuesday, November 08, 2011

TOP STORY >> A water line is dedicated to J.M. Park

Leader staff writer

A $10 million water line into Cabot was dedicated Tuesday in memory of J.M. Park, the man who arguably knew better than anyone how important water is to a city.

The line will eventually connect Cabot’s water system to Central Arkansas Water’s Wilson Treatment Plant south of the Arkansas River and is sized to provide water to Cabot residents beyond 2080.

Park, who died in January, was the original chairman of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, which took control of the city’s water and wastewater departments in 2006 and built the $10 million waterline as well as the sewer treatment plant that now serves the city.

He was president of the Bank of Cabot when it was the only bank in town. And he was a resident of Cabot when water was so scarce that many people collected rainwater in cisterns for household use.

Mayor Bill Cypert, who served on the commission with Park, said Park often spoke about the poor quality of the water. Park called his white shirts and underwear an embarrassment, Cypert said. The water either tasted bad or had no taste because there was no water. And some wells contained so much natural gas that flames shot from faucets if you held a match to them.

Gary Walker, the current commission chairman, said he met with Park shortly before he went into the hospital for surgery in early January.

Park wanted to make sure that the waterline was finished on schedule and on budget and he wanted Walker’s promise that Cabot WaterWorks would continue to put its customers first, Walker said.

Like Cypert, Walker also said he got to know Park while serving together on the commission.

Park was passionate about bird hunting and he was a stickler for starting meetings on time and finishing with business quickly, he said. But mostly he was passionate about getting for Cabot what he didn’t have for much of his life, a reliable source of water.

Park’s widow, Carolyn, and daughter Susan Esche accepted the plaque dedicating the waterline called the Cabot WaterWorks Northbelt Transmission Line.

“I’m a little old to be doing this but isn’t it wonderful it’s going to happen,” Carolyn Park said her husband told her.

“J.M. would have been so pleased to see this come to be,” she said.

Esche said her father often talked about the work of the commission and was excited about what they were doing even though some might not find it exciting.

“You’ve got to keep the taps running. You’ve got to keep the toilets flushing if you want your town to grow,” Esche said her father told her.