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Re-elect Cindy Carter Grant County Commissioner

David Schmidt seeks to continue work on council

 

David Schmidt

For David Schmidt, serving on the town council is a civic duty, one he is currently fulfilling for the second time, having served an earlier term a decade ago.

"It's just a sense of feeling of responsibility to the community where you live," Schmidt said in an interview last week. "Everybody has a responsibility to ... offer to society what you have the skills for." Schmidt served as president of the Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union for 35 years, taking the financial institution from $1.2 million in assets in 1972 to $67 million by the time he retired 10 years ago, according to the Credit Union Journal.

The job shaped a fairly conservative fiscal attitude and distilled a philosophy about fund balances that informĀ„s his approach to city governance: A small-town council should make sure its utilities serve the people well, and save up funds for inevitable repairs and big projects, but not to an excess that keeps the town from meeting other needs.

"I'm not the kind of person who thinks the town should skimp on some things in order to save money in another area that isn't necessary," he said. "Why put us through the angst of having bad sidewalks if we can refocus some of the money that's there to deal with that?"

Schmidt said Coulee Dam is in very good shape, financially.

Addressing the issue of the right level of such savings, Mayor Greg Wilder, who is not seeking re-election, has provided the council with figures that compare Coulee Dam's reserve fund balances quite favorably to state recommendations and to funds in similarly sized communities.

But Schmidt said that's not enough information and that the question needs to be studied further to plan and budget for unique risks the town might face for each of its assets. Few, if any, other small towns in Washington run their own electric utilities, for example, and a catastrophic failure in that aging system could cost a lot.

Schmidt said addressing the town's poor sidewalks is a pressing issue that the city crew has begun successfully addressing and that will take more longterm funding, some of which will come through a large state grant next spring.

Schmidt said he is troubled by the town's current relationship with Elmer City, a point he argued at last week's council meeting during a discussion about a possible default by Elmer City from its agreement with Coulee Dam for wastewater treatment, which has eight years remaining.

"If they make this decision and move forward, there is going to be a considerable amount of personal upheaval in the community and angst that everyone in the community is going to have to go through," Schmidt said, calling it a non-money issue, "the biggest downside."

He also thinks Coulee Dam needs to analyze its park system. He likes the idea of building a splash pad for families on the east side of town and notes his own grandchildren seem to enjoy them more than a swimming pool.

Repairing infrastructure such as sidewalks, or investing in better support for families all takes money, but it's possible by shepherding resources and making careful choices, he said.

That's one reason a close look at reserve fund balances is warranted, he said. He also thinks the city should explore selling some land assets it doesn't need but must maintain, such as some parking strips used almost exclusively by businesses.

"If a community wants something bad enough," Schmidt says, "they can get it."

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