Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Contentious Evening

Tonight I was a speaker at a voter information meeting about the city water treatment plan and then the proposed county wide EMS Authority. The meeting was contentious and full of hot air from all sides. What really gets my goat is that we have been holding public meetings and talking to the press about the water issues for the last three years and yet none of the armchair idiots concerned citizens was willing to even attend a single engineering meeting, council meeting, meeting with the EPA, heck, even a meeting with me. Now that it is clear what the whole issue will do to water rates (raise them to a level similar to other communities in the area for a start), the people are up in arms.

What really bothers me is that they don't seem to grasp that this is a no win situation where trying to deny the issue just makes it worse and more costly. Some points are conceded by all sides:
1) The EPA standard is capricious and has no scientific basis.
2) Treating to handle 1) will obviate the need for home water softeners and reverse osmosis units.
After that, it is a toxic mix of coffee shop rumor and non-thinking knee jerk reactions. The plain facts are:
1) We are under EPA edict to do this. It is not an "if you want to", it is a "it will be done on this timeline" situation.
2) If we don't start construction by the end of the year, we can be declared non-conformant by the EPA.
3) If we are declared so, then a whole bunch of bad things happen and we still have to do it, but with no help and no time. That basically means a $29 million dollar effort will become an estimated $110 million dollar court ordered action with no ability to control costs.
So all the aforementioned armchair idiots concerned citizens get up and rant about how we should show those government people who we are and how we should get Obama $$$ to do this, etc. The last city who tried to show those EPA and government critters is 150 miles from here. It looks like people would have at least followed the news as that city's $18 million dollar water treatment plan became a $72 million dollar court supervised disaster that had to be built in 6 months (by court decree) which doubled the cost yet again. All because the voters were going to show those government people. Seems to me the government showed them - and left them paying for it for a long, long time.

The real stick (there is no carrot) in all this is not the fines ($2000 to $20,000 per day) if we don't get voter approval to do this. It is not that we are the only city in Colorado with a charter provision requiring us to get voter approval for revenue bonds (bonds issued against water plant revenues - in any other city it is already a done deal and construction has already started which reduces the costs appreciably to meet the EPA deadline). It is not even the fact that the mayor may be jailed for being in contempt of federal court for being the nominal leader of the non-compliance rebellion. (After all, I am term limited out in November, it won't be me! {*grin*}) No, the real issue is that if a town like ours is declared non-conformant, we become ineligible for *all* federal funds (like fire and security and 911 systems and ...) and FHA and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financing of real estate sales is prohibited. And property cannot be sold without going through a lot of hoops even if no bank financing is needed. And that in turn kills business financing since they can't use their property as collateral. So during the months while everything sorts itself out in court and the treatment plant is built under court supervision and time line, the town goes through throes that might kill it and the very livelihoods of those same people who are going to tell the government to take a hike.

All I have to say is that I sure hope the sane voters who understand what the consequences are come out to vote. Actually, I hope they put marker to paper in timely manner since the county wide vote this year is by mail-in ballot only.

In any case, another 3 hours of my life wasted and I get to do it again tomorrow afternoon. And all for $500/month whether I like it or not. Just declare me insane now and send out the men with the big butterfly nets! I'll be waiting.


  1. Too bad your thoughts above couldn't be published in the editorial section of the paper - ya know that is where they read about rates going up.

  2. as the reporter who covers these types of meeting all I have to say about the average "concerned citizen" is they just like to bitch but they don't like to actually do anything about anything.

  3. No matter how cut and dry the issue may be, there is ALWAYS a dissenting opinion and it's usually LOUD!


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