EUREKA SPRINGS — James Ray Allison, office manager of the Carroll-Boone Water District, passed away suddenly Sunday of unknown causes at the age of 67.
Allison had worked for the water district for about 20 years, with some time in between opening a restaurant in Eureka Springs with his wife, Sandra, and working in a local bank. Besides being the office and financial manager for the water district, he was a fully licensed water operator.
Co-workers expressed shock at Allison’s passing. He had been under extended treatment for health problems twice in the last year and a half, but that had gone well, said employee René Fonseca, and Allison had returned to work last week and seemed to be doing well.
“He’s going to leave a big void here,” Fonseca said.
Plant manager John Summers knew Allison the longest.
“It would be hard to explain the job Jim did,” he said. “He was real conscientious, one hundred percent honest, and talented. Everyone thought the world of him. Everyone he dealt with, from employees to customers to the member cities — no one ever had anything bad to say about him.”
“He did a great job,” said board chairman James Yates. “He was very dedicated to the district and to our employees and the customers. He always did the very best he could. He left people at the district knowledgeable in how to run the day-to-day operations when he couldn’t be there.”
Allison, along with 10 other Carroll-Boone water operators, after conducting considerable research and attending training, was known for being a staunch opponent of mandatory water fluoridation. He testified at hearings in Little Rock several times against mandating what he and other water operators called “poison” after learning about its harmful effects.
Specifically, Allison expressed strong concerns over the lack of safety procedures and safeguards for his workers handling the chemical and the mishaps that could occur even if all safety protocols are followed.
“We are disturbed by the potential harm to our customers and operators for handling and consuming a poison more toxic than lead and just slightly less toxic than arsenic, made from industrial waste,” he wrote in a 2005 letter to a state Senate committee conducting a hearing on the subject.
In June 2008, Allison wrote to Dr. Lynn Mouden, director of the state Office of Oral Health, asking whether it was the plan to mandate fluoride in the state. Although he and his fellow operators were careful to make clear their views did not necessarily represent the views of the water district board or of the member cities, Allison ended his letter with, “The opposition to fluoride of every licensed operator at this facility has not changed and we plan to be in the fight against mandated fluoridation.”
Last year, Mouden and fluoride supporters won the fight to mandate it when Gov. Mike Beebe signed it into law. Currently, it is being challenged and is expected to come before the legislature early next year. Construction of fluoride treatment facilities is on hold at Carroll-Boone.
Allison was born May 16, 1945, in Clarendon, Texas. He served in the U.S. Marines and fought in Vietnam. He is survived by his wife, Sandra and other family members.
No public services are planned at this time. A private memorial service will be held at a later date.