Jim Knapp, the chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee of Clackamas County Service District #1, said he feels 'very good' about the group's unanimous decision to recommend that the Board of County Commissioners keep Milwaukie's controversial Kellogg sewage plant in operation.
Nine months ago, the CAC was charged with making a recommendation for locating and financing future wastewater services. They made their recommendations just last Thursday, October 28.
'It came down to the wire - you have seven very different individuals who did not know each other - [and in the end] we all agreed to the same thing,' he said.
After months of meetings and open discussion, the CAC made the following recommendation to the BCC: Keep the Kellogg plant in operation, build a new treatment plant within the district and decommission Kellogg sometime in the future, if and when it makes economic sense to do so.
'It made sense to us to put Kellogg back into operation for as long as it makes sense,' Knapp said.
It was not an easy path, reaching a decision, Knapp said, adding that sometimes it was 'like walking on marshmallows - we had huge obstacles to overcome.'
A long process
Right from the beginning, when the CAC formed, Knapp said, 'our drive was [to come up with a plan to guarantee] the highest quality water - so we don't have to revisit this again in 30 years. We wanted to find the best option that would fit in the long term.'
In their presentation to the BCC, Knapp and vice chair Eric Hofeld noted that the CAC had held over 25 official meetings and an uncounted number of public meetings. They held open meetings, and actively encouraged citizen involvement, Knapp said, while Hofeld explained that the CAC had 'collectively gone overboard to reach out to the public.'
Knapp told the commissioners that the CAC knew this was going to be a 'tough road,' so the group wanted to 'engage the public, city managers and anyone who would have us - we asked them to come forward. We were very successful in public outreach - we had a good turnout.
'We achieved a lot of vision and cooperation from these jurisdictions. We said we needed to come together - we needed to put our swords and daggers away and go to work as business people,' Hofeld said.
He told the commissioners that he appreciated their 'tolerance' and added that it had been 'difficult to put all this together.'
Knapp said, 'We've built working relationships with the city of Milwaukie and other jurisdictions that we hopefully can pull together with a common cause.'
Commission Bill Kennemer said the CAC had made a 'gigantic decision that represented a monumental amount of work.'
'I want to thank the members of the CAC for spending all the hours - they did a great job. This gives us a proposal, so we can go out and have public hearings and see how the community feels,' added Commissioner Larry Sowa.
Citizens speak up
After the CAC presentation, members of the public were given the opportunity to respond to the recommendation.
First to speak was Brad Smith, an Oak Grove resident.
'It's a control issue,' he said, adding, 'Half of the CAC was pre-disposed to not move the plant. They have proposed a facility located in the community, and recommended the pros and cons for a plant that doesn't exist.'
In his opinion, Smith said, it is 'foolish not to look at [the Tri City site] for a positive site of expansion.'
He concluded by saying that he respected the work of the CAC, but he believed that the group was not able 'to get past their own biases.'
Kim Anderson, representing the Sunrise Water authority, submitted a letter supporting the recommendation.
'There is a misconception that there is an unlimited amount of water sources available - but the amount is in limited quantities. This proposal is a stellar opportunity to [explore] an urban recycled-water system,' she said.
Another Oak Grove resident, Thelma Hagenmiller, said she 'fully supported' the CAC recommendation.
Charmaine Coleman - saying that she represented the city of Milwaukie and Clackamas County Service District #1 - blasted the recommendation.
'The CAC [was charged with] finding the best sewage option for the best cost, and they've given us an alternative with unnecessarily high costs, numerous problems and no resolutions.
'Numerous questions were raised by the ratepayers regarding expensive costs - and they were left unanswered. We were forgotten,' Coleman said.
'Jim Knapp said he engaged the public, but the community comments that came back were ignored. This is not what the citizens want.
'This is the wrong choice for Milwaukie and the wrong choice for CCSD #1, and it does nothing positive for Clackamas County. We're relying on the BCC to make the best decision for the county,' Coleman concluded.
Pat Russell, a Clackamas resident, said he was 'disappointed in the the process,' and, he told the commissioners, 'I blame you personally and the cities.'