Water, sewer, roads,
parks and cemetery
By Rhett Wilkinson
EPHRAIM—Chad Parry started his working life as a coal miner but found the occupation to be far less than ideal.
First, he had to travel about 120 miles per day round-trip to the job site, from Ephraim to the Deer Creek Mine in Huntington. Then Parry lost his thumb on the job. Then, while off work due to the accident, Parry was laid off.
Then an opening came up in Ephraim City’s Public Works Department. Parry decided apply for it. He got it.
Still, there were issues. Parry was paid just $5.50 an hour. And in the beginning, he was only part-time. “I started from the very bottom,” as a “laborer,” he said.
Seven years into the job, he got the chance to move up to public works director, which meant he was in charge of almost every city function except police and power.
“Water, sewer, you name it,” Parry said.
When he retired late last year, Parry had been in Public Works for 32 years, including five years working for Spring City and Ephraim simultaneously and 25 years as director in Ephraim.
Over that time, he won several awards, including the 2013 award for “Outstanding Service by a Water Operator,” given by the Rural Water Association of Utah.
Under his direction, Ephraim’s sewer system was named “Wastewater Service of the Year” and the water system the “Most Improved Water System ,” among several accolades.
Public works presented a different challenge every day, Parry said.
“Water and wastewater were the most important aspects of public works. And overall, there were many challenges with parks, beautification and burials,” he said.
“I learned a lot about people,” Parry said. “A lot of people have passed since I started. I used to know everyone in town.”
He said he could drive passed homes and tell stories about the residents and say goodbye by burying them at the cemetery.
Parry witnessed Sanpete towns working together. When he worked for both Spring City and Ephraim, Spring City was going through some internal problems and didn’t have a water operator at the time.
So the mayors of Ephraim and Spring City got together and tackled the problem, Parry said.
“Cities, it’s crazy how they come together when they need some help or an extra hand,” Parry said.
Parry saw a lot of changes in Ephraim City over his time in public works. He helped on the cooperative project with Snow College to build a baseball/softball four-plex. He headed up development of Canyon View Park, which was “basically a gravel pit” before it was converted to a park.
“Technology has probably been the biggest change in working for Ephraim City over the years,” Parry said. When he started out, there were no cell phones. “We did CV radios in our trucks,” he said.
“Technology has grown so much,” he added. “It’s good-bad. I’m a lot old school, and it’s hard to make the change over to new stuff, but the new stuff is really amazing…. I don’t know where we will be in another 32 years. It will be interesting to see.”
Parry said the biggest challenge he grappled with as public works director, and the accomplishment he is most proud of, is maintaining a quality water system.
“It’s just amazing what I have learned with water,” Parry said. “When I started, I took for granted where your water comes from and goes.”
“There’s so many water lines to maintain and so many springs to maintain,” Parry said.
And public works employees have to be “dang sure” that the water they are funneling into homes is safe for drinking.
Parry said he was “proud that [he] knew it was safe and good…You come away with a good feeling,” he said.
Clearly, Parry said, water volumes have dropped over the years. He attributes the decline in water availability to growth, droughts and “a little bit of everything that’s taken effect.”
“We’re not getting the winters we’re used to; we’re not getting the rainstorms we’re used to,” he said.
You used to be able to ice skate at the swamp ground near Manti, he said. “This time of year, you didn’t have to worry about finding a place to ice skate. Now, it’s tapered off to nothing … Most of the farmers will tell you it’s never been like they’ve seen it the past couple of years.”
The trend makes him worry about Ephraim City’s water future. The city is heavily dependent on springs, but its hard to develop new springs because there just isn’t much water in the mountains for the springs to draw on. Consequently, the springs “only put out so much water.
“I never thought we’d use all our resources, but don’t ever take for granted having enough water.”
Regarding retiring, Parry said “it was just the right time.”
“My wife had just retired and it was just time, I think,” he said. “It was time to have somebody come in with new ideas.”
Parry emphasizes that he loves where he lives.
“We live in a good place; a lot of good people,” Parry said. “I’m just glad that I’ve been able to live in Ephraim.
“Our kids and grandkids are keeping me busy, so that’s been something I’ve been able to enjoy,” Parry said.
Parry has two children, Wendy and Aaron Parry. Wendy manages SnoCap Lanes and Aaron works at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. Parry’s wife Lorie just retired from Snow College after working there for about 32 years. Parry has five grandchildren.
Reflecting on his decades directing public works in a growing small city, Parry said, “I just like the people. The people of Sanpete and Ephraim [have been] really good to work for. … It’s been challenging, but it’s been really good.”