August 15, 2012 | LXXII, No. 20

Elmer City to Coulee Dam: We’re outa here

Split will leave Coulee Dam customers alone to pay for upgrades and service

Elmer City has advised the town of Coulee Dam that it will put in its own wastewater treatment plant, and leave the larger town to foot the entire bill for its planned sewer plant upgrade, already set to nearly double rates.

In a letter to Coulee Dam Mayor Quincy Snow, Mayor Mary Jo Carey stated: “Based on the refusal of Coulee Dam to acknowledge Elmer City’s role as the joint operator of the plant that the two towns constructed jointly, we have come to the conclusion that Coulee Dam no longer recognizes the existence of the joint operating agreement and intends to operate the treatment plant as a single operator. Accordingly, Elmer City acknowledges Coulee Dam’s disavowal of the joint operating agreement and will proceed with design and construction of its own sewer treatment facility.”

Elmer City’s Mayor Carey and her council have been in contentious disagreement with Coulee Dam over a planned $5 million wastewater treatment plant; they are convinced that a $2.1 million to $2.7 million upgrade plan would be sufficient to satisfy federal and state agencies and take care of the two towns’ needs well into the future.

Several sticking points have brought the issue to a head. Elmer City contends that it is a partner in Coulee Dam’s present plant and that it was not consulted on the size and plan for the plant. And it notes that its customer base, made up largely “fixed income” residents, cannot afford to double their monthly sewer service costs.

If Elmer City moves ahead with its threat to go it alone, the full expense of the near $5 million project would fall on the shoulders of Coulee Dam residents.

Elmer City currently provides 193 customers to help foot the bill for wastewater treatment expenses. Coulee Dam has 687 individual equivalent sewer hookups.

Elmer City’s disagreement with Coulee Dam on the issue has been fanned by Greg Wilder, a Coulee Dam resident who has taken the project on as too expensive for the need. He has appeared before the Coulee Dam council on numerous occasions in an effort to get the town to scale the project down, without success. So he has opted to appear before Elmer City’s council to continue his fight with Coulee Dam.

There he has had some success, although Carey has stated, “I don’t agree with Wilder on every point, but he knows what he is talking about.”

Wilder has raised the question of why Coulee Dam hasn’t consulted with the Colville Tribes since half of the town and all of Elmer City lies within the boundaries of the Colville Indian Reservation. He has also asked why Coulee Dam didn’t apply to Indian Health Services for financing of the project.

Carey reported to her council Thursday night that Elmer City, Coulee Dam, Wilder and Indian Health Services have a 12:15 p.m. meeting Tuesday with the Colville Business Council to go over the treatment plant plan.

Coulee Dam’s Mayor Snow said that some of his council members tend to ignore the Elmer City letter and move forward with the project.

“I have asked Gray & Osborne engineers to come to Tuesday’s meeting to explain the project,” Snow stated.

Both towns have threatened to resort to legal action in the matters of the whether Elmer City is a partner or a customer, and the size of the plant.

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