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Big “unintended consequences”

Letters to the Editor


for ratepayers and schools in Coulee Dam

The towns of Coulee Dam and Elmer City recently met to discuss ways they might cooperate or come to an agreement regarding the new treatment plant which Coulee Dam is currently designing. It seems that Coulee Dam’s view of resolving the matter with its “partner” is to simply proceed without any consideration, consensus, or compromise, leaving Elmer City faced with a project they simply cannot afford. And, as it is, there are many of us in Coulee Dam that can’t afford it either! The decision Coulee Dam has made is a concoction of equal parts of irresponsibility, arrogance, and ignorance.

There is another, related matter, which the community needs to think about, too. And that is the increased sewer fees and charges that must and will be assessed to the new school. The transition of the elementary and middle schools to Coulee Dam, together with the increased sewer charges for the high school, will add (yes, that’s over and above the current costs) nearly $50,000 to the operating expenses for the district. And, no, this revelation isn’t about the school siting decision — it’s all about the town of Coulee Dam and their seemingly irretraceable decision to build more than is required and much, much more than they need. So, as one person at the meeting said; “it’s just another unanticipated consequence.” In this case, less education for our children!

Two of the Coulee Dam Council members were silent during the meeting … spoke not a word. Council members Poch, Hjorten, and Alling, along with Mayor Snow, were obvious and emphatic supporters of the gold-plated version in spite of the more reasonable alternative. Mayor Snow thinks he should try to convince the tribes to invest in the expensive project just to save the town some money. Hell, they can save over $3 million by building a more reasonable project, and another 18 percent by freezing their excessive and self-imposed Business & Occupation Taxes. Why would, why should, the tribe throw good money after bad? The tribe made an offer to sit and discuss “if the town would simply delay the project” for a bit … Coulee Dam didn’t even have the time for a meaningful response!

In the end, Elmer City may have a more cost-effective alternative … build its own treatment facility. Working with the tribe to insure enhanced services along that corridor could prove to be a winning formula for Elmer City and the tribe. Add to that mix an operator training program and the model might prove even more compelling.

But if Elmer City takes away almost 30 percent of the customers, we in Coulee Dam won’t see our rates go to $84; we will see them go to well over $100 per month for just sewer fees — another “unintended consequence?” Or another B&O tax windfall for the town of Coulee Dam!

You see, our town government sees an advantage in building more than is necessary or more than we will ever need … they just pass the costs on to us, as ratepayers, AND for every $100 they collect from us for sewer fees, they also collect $18 for the general government — the things most cities pay for from their tax base.

Greg Wilder

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