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Another option - a reasonable solution

Letters to the Editor


Last updated 5/23/2012 at 12:32pm

Coulee Dam paid $70,000 to have its engineer prepare a facilities plan for the town’s sewer treatment system. The plan presented TWO viable build options: One was to go ahead and spend over $6.2 million dollars now for a project with all of the whistles and bells you could want. The other was a “phased” project — one that would spend about $2.1 million to build what was “actually” needed and to put off the “options” and gold-plating until later.

The Coulee Dam council, apparently against the wishes of the mayor, decided that they wanted the best and most (now and first) regardless of the economic impact … regardless of the rates we (and our children and our children’s children) would have to pay to finance that Cadillac. Councilmember Poch stated that he did not want to “leave problems for our kids to solve later,” which really translates to, “Let’s stick our kids with the debt now, before they’re old enough decide for themselves!”

The town simply did not build the partnerships it should have when it needed too. By involving the Tribe, the town of Elmer City, the USBR and other funding agencies earlier, it’s very likely that additional funds and better ideas would have evolved.

But it’s not too late! By adopting the “phased” recommendation, the town will then have the time it needs to properly coordinate and cooperate with its stakeholders. The community and the process deserves that … not a bunch of meaningless metaphors about solving problems for our children!

At a point too late in the process, the town began holding meetings designed to “tell” their constituents and their partners what they were going to do, what they had decided to do, all cloaked in a “what they had to do” excuse. No time was spent talking about what “could” be done or soliciting ideas and input that just might help define a better and more cost effective project.

Then reality hit. The town was unable to secure financing for the “biggest and best” and had to re-scope the project — down from $6.2 million to $5 million, still ignoring the $2.1 million project that would actually satisfy its needs! At this point the town began actively looking for more money. The Colville Tribe was contacted for assistance, and the mayor claims to be “working our state and federal officials too.” When asked, “What if additional moneys are found, will they be used to reduce the cost of the $5 million project debt OR used to grow the project back to $6.2 million or more?” there was (and still remains) no answer to that question.

The Colville Tribe’s interest is in reducing the cost and the impacts on its community, so why would they even be the least bit interested in throwing good money after bad? Unless, of course, their money is used to reduce the costs on the project and debt, not to grow it into something even bigger!

I sat through the last few meetings quietly listening to the Coulee Dam engineer paint a picture depicting $5 million of “musts” and “requirements” necessary now! Painting a picture of regulatory mandates that if not met would spell doom, disaster, and untold fines and penalties. And yet the plan these same engineers prepared defines the lesser $2.1 million option as a viable alternative … go figure.

I guess to Poch and the other council members, the more money you have in hand (or the more you can borrow), the greater is the imagined need — speaking of children — like a bunch of children in a candy store with pockets full of change! And, of course, the more options you include in the project, the larger the engineering fees.

There is a clear, compelling, and obvious solution that will repair the failing components, insure that the town is compliant with state and federal regulations, and one that is “more” affordable. A project that will cost $2.1 million not $6.2 million! A project that will cut by more than 60 percent the proposed rate increases. Again, the town’s own engineer pointed that out in the Facilities Plan … a plan that was prepared by the Coulee Dam engineer, adopted by the town, and approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

I (for one) say let’s build what we need, not what we want… for now. I say, let’s not burden our children with unnecessary debt and skyrocketing utility rates. What do you say?

As a parenthetical footnote … the Elmer City share of this project is NOT at all limited to 25 percent of the project cost. If they are bound by the terms of a 35-year-old agreement with Coulee Dam, the percentage could be more. And Elmer City would also be held to pay for all those “other” costs the engineer and the town of Coulee Dam decide are related to the improvements needed to address the “unique” character of the Elmer City sewage!

I remain interested in the good and better for Coulee Dam (and the region) and I remain,

Greg Wilder

(according to some, prone to ranting and raving!)


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