May 1, 2013 | LXXIII, No. 5

Time to look for plant alternatives funding approved

It was an unlikely night, with community activist Greg Wilder, who has opposed just about everything about Coulee Dam’s proposed wastewater treatment plant, going to work for the town.

He isn’t being hired by the town, but he volunteered to raise the money for a alternative analysis study of the town’s current treatment plant plan.

Town officials argued that they hadn’t pursued an alternative analysis, a study to see if the plant would be better located elsewhere, because of the cost, estimated at $25,000 to $50,000.

Wilder who has argued for a 360-degree approach for an alternative study, frustrated with the way the meeting was going, offered to find the funds for the study himself.

A crowd in the council chambers asked members for a 30-day reprieve, giving Wilder and others time to find the funds for the study.

Wilder had stated a number of times that the present location might be the best, but a study should be made to test that opinion.

Wilder and Mayor Quincy Snow argued about whether Coulee Dam officials had been invited to a meeting arranged in Spokane by Indian Health Services. Snow had maintained that the town wasn’t invited and Wilder said he would furnish documents showing it had.

That’s when Councilmember Bob Poch held up his hand to end the argument stating, “This is neither the time nor place for this.”

Councilmember Karl Hjorten outlined a plan to scale down the project to a $2 million to $2.3 million level, essentially cutting the scope to less than half the original plan, which was $4.92 million.

“Elmer City can’t afford it, they have made it crystal clear,” he stated. He proposed dealing with the sludge issue and a chemical violation problem, which he stated the town had been in violation of some 28 times, and a couple of other items.

Hjorten said that in a telephone conference call with the town’s lending agency, the Department of Ecology, an OK was given on the lesser project.

Wilder stated that he thought it was “folly” to proceed with any project without doing the alternative analysis.

He also stated that the project in its present form would cost twice as much to operate and maintain as similar plants.

Resident Gloria Carroll, who lives on Stevens Street, said that there was a “great deal of divisiveness in the town.” She added that the town has been in the wastewater treatment plant process for eight years and it wasn’t too much to ask for a 30-day period to find funding for the alternative analysis study.

The current infighting is “just not neighborly and we need to get some healing,” she pleaded.

Carroll is trying to put together a community picnic to get people together.

“It’s surprising what can happen when people sit down and eat some fried chicken together,” Carroll later stated.

Poch nodded in favor of the 30-day reprieve and the town council approved the idea with a 3-1 vote. Andy Trader voted against the measure and Ben Alling was absent.

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