Letter sets up rift between towns
A letter Coulee Dam prepared for interested parties in its wastewater treatment plant project drew reaction from the town of Elmer City last Wednesday night that would eventually lead to a decision to end a decades-long collaboration.
The letter, designed to advise all parties that the ownership of the plant would rest with Coulee Dam, and that the only official representatives of Coulee Dam authorized to speak on the project were elected officials, the town’s attorney, engineers from Gray & Osborne, Public Works Director Barry Peacock and Clerk/Treasurer Carol Visker.
It brought a quick response from Coulee Dam citizen-advocate Greg Wilder, who asked Mayor Quincy Snow if he could speak about the letter. After some word wrangling between Wilder and Snow, Elmer City Councilmember Larry Holford took up the cause.
Holford asked if the letter reflected a change in Coulee Dam’s willingness to pursue additional funding partners.
Elmer City resident and former council member Gail Morin asked Snow why the letter wasn’t being sent to Elmer City, since her town accounts for about one-quarter of the flow through the current wastewater treatment facility.
Coulee Dam Councilmember Karl Hjorten asked the mayor to also send the letter to Elmer City.
Snow agreed to that request, and then assured Holford that the town had met with potential funding partners on two occasions and planned another meeting after the holidays.
Snow had prepared the letter and asked council members if they would sign it, and a motion was quickly passed to do so.
That quieted down the questions about the letter, but didn’t do much to address the question of what the cost of the project would be.
That had been challenged by Wilder, and officials from Elmer City who prefer a $2.3 to $2.8 million version of the wastewater treatment plant rather than the $4.92 million currently being planned.
Engineers from Gray & Osborne indicated at a meeting two weeks earlier they would be willing to delay further design for the project while additional financial partners and an engineer’s assessment was made. However, Jeff Stevens stated that Gray & Osborne needed direction on how to proceed and that it couldn’t delay its process indefinitely.
Currently the project is scheduled for construction sometime in 2014. Any long term delay could change that date.
The Department of Ecology, the source of the town’s loan for the upgrade of the wastewater treatment facility, has indicated that the town has some time to pursue funding partners.
Wilder and the town of Elmer City have been successful in getting the Colville Tribes interested in the project, with the hope that some of the plant’s funding could come through Indian Health Services, since some 150-200 Indian families live within the service boundaries of the project.
Last Wednesday night, Frank Friedlander, public works director for the tribes, presented a letter to the Coulee Dam Council from Colville Business Council Chairman John Sirois. In the letter, Sirois wrote: “I would like to formally renew an offer to partner with the Town of Coulee Dam in their effort to construct an adequate and cost effective sewage treatment facility.”
He continued, “The tribes is in a unique position to request funding from the Indian Health Services (IHS) to assist in completing this task. In order to make that request, the Tribes feel that it would be best to establish a panel to review the project concept and scope as described in the predesign report. This panel, composed of representatives from the Tribes, IHS, the Town of Coulee Dam, the Town of Elmer City, and members of the community, will evaluate its adequacy, and make recommendations to the Tribes’ Business Council based on that review.”
Sirois went on to state: “We welcome this opportunity to collaborate to provide sanitary infrastructural improvements for less expense to all ratepayers.”
Sirois had suggested that Friedlander coordinate the panel meetings and that they be held at the IHS office in Spokane.
Snow countered and said the meetings could just as well be held locally since most of the attendees would be from this area.