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The money has been found for analysis

Letters to the Editor

 


About three months ago, the Coulee Dam Town Council was presented with a petition signed by hundreds. Two of the items on that petition were a roll-back of the burdensome sewer rates and a demand for the town to look at alternative solutions for the project. As one councilman (Ben Alling) put it, “How about rather than roll back the rates, we just use the new money to pay for the Alternatives Analysis.” And the council went on to stop the project for 90 days so that alternative technologies and/or locations could be explored and evaluated. The State Department of Ecology also agreed to a 3-month stay.

Now, 90 days later and nothing’s been done. A few “secret” meetings have been held – the public was excluded … but no new alternatives were considered or developed. And now, they are proposing a different approach — a “phased” project that will lock the town into an even more expensive project (up from $4.9 million to over $6.2 million). They think that by spending “just” $2,069,100 now they will have appeased us … they forgot to mention that an additional $4,226,300 will be needed in five years or so. They forgot to mention that over the next 20 years (the remaining life of the plant) we will be spending millions more on operations and maintenance and compliance remedies than we would on a well-designed modern plant. By the way, a new and modern facility will last over 40 years, cost half as much to operate, and the construction costs are competitive with “upgrades/repairs” being proposed.

To add an additional insult and a measure of distain for the public, the Town Council offered up another 30-day delay in the project to give the community time to raise the $55,000 it might take to evaluate alternate solutions! Thirty days doesn’t give us time to have enough bakes sales or car washes. Nor the time for pancake or spaghetti feeds. Andy Trader was the only councilperson that remembered their promise. I think he was aware of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in “excess” revenue the town has already collected from the rate increases.

I’ve seen scores of facilities plans in my four decades of related work. However, I’ve never seen one that didn’t first look at alternative solutions as part of the analysis — as part of the decision process … until now! There is nothing more basic, nothing more fundamental, and nothing more mandatory, than considering reasonable “options” or alternatives.

So, who should pay for the cost to do what the town’s engineer should have done in the first place? Who should find the money to do the expected?

Because the (our) engineer failed to do reasonable diligence, we are now facing this dilemma. I accepted the challenge to find the money for the study and I have done just that! The town has already collected $118,000 of uncommitted funds from “excess” revenues (from us) and they have budgeted $205,428 as an unreserved (surplus) revenue in the sewer fund this year. So, there you have it — a source for the money that’s needed to review reasonable alternatives! Hire an independent engineer, involve the town in a public process, and give us a chance to see what our options really are!

Or, better yet, as Elmer City Councilmember Larry Holford suggested, “put it off until next year to give all of us a chance to review the project and find grant funding.” Now that’s a sensible request. And maybe next year Coulee Dam will have an administration and council that actually “represents” our best interests.

I remain committed to a sensible and reasonable solution; and I also remain,

Greg Wilder

 

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