Office: Elmer City Mayor
Candidates: Incumbent Mary Jo Carey and Gail Morin
Mary Jo Carey did not respondGail Morin’s statement:
Elmer City’s population has remained constant over the last twenty years and the tax base will likely not increase significantly in the near future. Generally speaking, that’s the way we like it. However, this doesn’t mean we should not be prepared for some managed growth within our planning area. The current need for water, sewer and garbage services is about 180-190 households. The rates for those services have not increased beyond the cost of living indexes, except for one case.
The cost of providing treatment of the town’s sewage has increased from $24,543 in 2004 to $50,617.96 in 2011. Elmer City budgeted $26,900 in 2004 for sewer treatment and by 2011 was budgeting $75,000. Luckily we have not reached that estimate, but we were prepared to pay that or more. Elmer City receives $80,000 a year in sewer rate fees. This would have left $5,000 for maintenance. Is that enough? No.
The threat of a $6.2 million “improvement” to the current treatment plant located in Coulee Dam and the reported cost to ratepayers of $78 made me look into the problem. It isn’t enough to say, “We can’t afford it.” All of us understand that rates go up when costs go up. When there is a possibility of doubling or tripling rates, we all need to become more interested. I did.
In 1974 Elmer City changed from septic tanks to sewer lines and treatment at the plant in Coulee Dam. The agreement stated the following (paraphrased): Elmer City will pay for their own collection of sewage and will pay a share based on flow to Coulee Dam for treatment of that sewage. Coulee Dam will pay for their own collection of sewage and keep those costs separate from wastewater treatment costs. Grand Coulee and Electric City have a similar agreement. Grand Coulee budgets approximately 30% of its sewer labor costs for maintenance of the sewer collection and 70% for treatment. Coulee Dam budgets zero for sewer collection and 100% for treatment.
The 1974 agreement between our towns has not been scrutinized for years. The changes in billing were sometimes gradual, but more recently (2010) there was a major and obvious increase to the town of Elmer City. The bill was paid and no questions asked. I will ask the questions.
What is the solution? We need to be a lot less willing to “just pay the bill”. Why did the cost for labor increase from 1.25 FTEs in 1988 to 1.60 FTEs about the year 2000? It was additional labor required for bagging sludge, I was told. While it was reported the sludge bags would be used as fertilizer for crops, the non-biodegradable sacks allow only their disposal in a landfill. What was the reason for labor to increase to 1.85 FTEs in 2010? I am still waiting for an answer.
Elmer City cannot continue supporting Coulee Dam’s sewer operation. We need to look for a more reasonably priced method of wastewater treatment. There are not only more cost effective methods, but they are also more eco-friendly. There are solutions to our problem (both towns) that are less expensive, produce less sludge, and will require no or greatly reduced treated water released into the Columbia River.
In order to solve a problem, the next mayor of Elmer City must recognize the problem. We need to return to the one-page monthly budget summary method of informing the council and anyone else interested in the city coffers. I have the budget experience and the willingness to do the research.
My candidacy has taken many twists, turns, and a life-changing event, but with the help and encouragement of my family, friends and neighbors, I am ready and willing to accept the challenges facing the office of mayor of Elmer City.