January 16, 2013 | LXXII, No. 42

Mayor would rather not go alone

Elmer City Mayor Mary Jo Carey said her town would rather be part of Coulee Dam’s wastewater treatment plant project than develop its own plant.

In an interview, she said Elmer City’s council voted to move forward investigating its own plant as a safety valve in case the town can’t work out its problems with Coulee Dam.

“It’s all about money and how we have been treated,” Carey stated. “Our citizens can’t afford the high monthly wastewater treatment costs as outlined by Coulee Dam.”

“What we’d like to see is for Coulee Dam to stop its plan process and allow outside engineers to look at the project and see if there is a way to get the cost down,” Carey added.

“We are prepared to continue looking into our own plant, if that is the only way we can get the cost down for our citizens,” she said.

Elmer City officials have had a problem with the way the town has been treated by Coulee Dam, not allowing Elmer City in on some of the planning of the new proposed upgrades.

The upgrades are projected to cost about $5 million, a sum that will force customers to pay much higher monthly sewer bills to amortize the debt.

Carey notes that if Elmer City pulls out of the mix, then Coulee Dam residents will have to pay the full bill. Currently, Elmer City accounts for about 25 percent of the flow into the existing plant.

Carey also would like to see interruption of the planning process to see if additional financial partners can be induced to take part in the project, namely the Colville Confederated Tribes through the Indian Health Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation, which has its own plant at the Third Powerhouse but is interested in taking part in discussions of the overall project.

In the mix also is Greg Wilder, a Coulee Dam resident who has hounded Coulee Dam officials about the size and cost of the proposed wastewater treatment facility, and has been working with Elmer City in an effort to force revisions to the plans.

Talks have been going on between Coulee Dam, Elmer City, the Tribes, Indian Health Services, Wilder, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The talks, if successful, would develop both the Tribes and the Bureau as funding partners, cutting the overall costs for residents of both towns.

The Tribes, through Indian Health Services, has shown some interest in getting involved because there are from 150-200 Indian families that would be served through the project. And the Bureau has shown some interest in finding a way to save money by vacating its Third Powerhouse treatment plant and tying into the upgraded Coulee Dam plant.

Meanwhile, the Coulee Dam Town Council hasn’t made any decision to interrupt its engineering firm, Gray & Osborne, in the planning process for the project.

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