Mayor Quincy Snow assured those attending a town council meeting last Wednesday night that the town would follow through on a “value engineering” study of its $4.92 million wastewater treatment plant project.
He made the announcement after a long presentation by David Dunn, an engineer from the state Department of Ecology, who came to the meeting to explain the value engineering process.
At the end of the presentation, Snow asked if the town should have gone through this process earlier.
“It is late in the process for major changes to be made,” Dunn said.
There has been a drive for the “value engineering” study to be made by local citizens and officials at Elmer City, which accounts for about 25 percent of the flow into the present Coulee Dam plant.
Coulee Dam resident Greg Wilder, who has been the eye of the storm of opposition to the scale of the plant, said he thought the study would cost about $18,000. Dunn said his experience with value engineering studies was that it would cost more like $35,000.
Yet Dunn reiterated that the process normally returns about 20 times benefit to cost.
Snow said the town would start looking for funding for the study.
Wilder said a study of the Coulee Dam process so far clearly showed that there hadn’t been enough effort by Gray & Osborne, the town’s engineering firm, to consider alternative plans, both on the size of the plant and its location.
Town officials in Elmer City now have advertised for their own engineer to help them consider building their own plant.
Elmer City officials have long contended that they were left out of the early planning for the revamping of the wastewater treatment plant, although Coulee Dam’s meetings on the subject have gone on nearly 10 years and meetings have been open and reported on a regular basis.
Elmer City is in its 37th year of a 50-year agreement with Coulee Dam to receive its sewage. Wilder noted the smaller town could decide to not continue with the arrangement and build a smaller plant that may be cheaper for its citizens.
Dunn explained to the council and those attending that value engineering is a creative and brainstorming time when a variety of engineers and professionals go through plans with a fine-toothed comb in an effort to make the project better, and ideally cheaper.
Such studies, he said, are designed “not to tear down” but to “make projects better.” He encouraged the town to do the study.
“The studies don’t always mean that the project can be built cheaper, but rather better,” he said. “There’s a hundred different ways to build that plant.”
Dunn also explained that the DOE was a funding partner offering the town a loan, but it is not a regulator in this case because the plant lies within federal jurisdiction. He also explained that the current loan for the project is not in jeopardy.
The town of Coulee Dam received a letter from Colville Business Council Chairman John Sirois, who stated: “On behalf of the Community Development Committee of the Colville Business Council 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 plant. … The Tribes is in a unique position to request funding from the Indian Health Service (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 …”
Sirois suggested representatives from the Tribes, IHS, the Town of Coulee Dam, Town of Elmer City, and members of the community participate in the review.
A meeting was held at IHS in Spokane Feb. 6 including the Colville Tribes, IHS, Elmer City, Dept. of Ecology and Wilder. Coulee Dam did not attend. Participants were there all day, reported Frank Friedlander of the tribes’ Public Works department.
The service area for the proposed plant is made up of 32 percent tribal members from Coulee Dam and 47 percent tribal members from Elmer City.