The time has come for the Board of County Commissioners to take a hard look at the results of the half-million dollar Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) process. The findings of the CAC supports the wisdom of the Commissioners decision last year to close the Kellogg Creek treatment plant and consolidate wastewater treatment at the Tri-Cities facility. Moreover, as a resident and rate payer in Oak Lodge, I believe that the March 2005 vote if taken again today would result in consolidating their operations with Tri-Cities as well. Huge amounts of inaccurate information about the condition of the Oak Lodge treatment facility pushed voters into a bad decision. Now Oak Lodge is looking at a total renovation of the treatment facilities that will probably double or triple sewer rates.
The CAC ultimately ignored the cost projections of their chosen consultant and opted for one of the costliest of the alternatives studied -- building a new plant in an undetermined location. Common sense and all available cost projections pointed to the expansion of the Tri-Cities facility and closure of Kellogg as the logical choice. That is consistent with what the County Commissioners were told a year ago in the Clearwater report. The CAC put out a survey to the public looking for input. Despite the fact that the CAC slanted their survey in favor of their key goal - local control - the survey results were overwhelmingly in favor of closing the Kellogg Creek treatment plant with local control way down the list of concerns. When CAC's survey came back with results different than they anticipated, what was the solution? Ignore the survey results and go on with their agenda to create a new sewer plant of their own.
At least half of the CAC members were predisposed from the beginning against the plan to relocate Kellogg treatment facilities. That was clear from their web site, www.ortem.org/scam. The Chairman referred to those who 'drank the Clearwater poison' during one of the meetings, and they repeatedly scoffed at the concept of 'regionalization' while struggling to justify building their own new plant.
Because they didn't like where the consultants' report was pointing OR the outcome of their own survey, the CAC spent their last week cobbling together a list of 'pros' and 'cons' to justify their desired result. The long list of perceived positives for a new plant were written like the plant already existed. It does not exist and so that list is a WISH LIST. In contrast the lists compiled for the other options, were based on current real conditions. Now the CAC is asking the County Commissioners to ignore the most cost-effective solution and take their WISH LIST as a justification for making rate payers foot the bill of a whole new plant.
The CAC claimed to want what is best for rate payers, yet they chose the option with the most uncertainty. There is no land designated for this project. How long will that process take to accomplish, how many more hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars to purchase and develop a site? The figure batted around at the recent Board of County Commissioners meeting was a couple of hundred million dollars, and construction costs continue to rise monthly, so that figure seems likely to increase. The Tri-Cities facility already HAS the land and land use permits. The CAC's own report talked about how the Tri-Cities site had stubbed out their piping to better aid in future growth and expansion. Also the Tri-Cities is currently equipped with enough discharge to accommodate all future expansion needs.
The County Commissioners should address the control issue by establishing a wastewater management board with members from all affected communities, and not let that issue sideline the best solution - consolidation in an expanded regional facility at the Tri-Cities location. Oak Lodge residents come out next Tuesday (October 10th at 6:30PM) to let the Sanitary District Board know we want them to reconsider the option of closing the plant and piping all waste to Tri-Cities. We've been misled enough by those who claim to have our financial interests at heart, but who in fact have spread misinformation leading to unprecedented rate increases.