BY KATHERINE KELLY
Here we go again. According to the Triplicate article, Bleak Report on City Sewer Debt, it’s the same old story, different council. To hear Mayor Rick Holley decry citizen opposition to the latest proposals on fixing what they broke in 2007 as misinformation and sound bites, and having Councilman Rich Enea belt out the same old war cry “it had to be done!” and “it’s not our fault,” the feeling of déjà vu sickens me.
First all, Mayor Holley, when a majority of the community came out against the proposed $44 million loan for a sewer upgrade we clearly could not afford and told the city council it was a bad idea for all the reasons and more the current council is now lamenting to the water board, we were scoffed at and completely ignored. But as it turns out, we were 100% right. So please, get off your high horse and listen for a change.
And Mr. Enea, if I remember correctly, you may have not been a council member at the time, but you were part and parcel of the “negotiations” between the city and the protesters. I personally remember you at a private meeting with us when you said the city was already in the process of raising the connection charges for new sewer hook ups, which was a lie. It was a matter of telling anything to get us to back off so you could steamroll the citizens of this community unimpeded. So your hands are not clean, you are just as complicit in this disastrous sewer project as the council at the time.
I remember how the construction project was put up for bid and only one company bid at twice the price. A city council with common sense, vision and critical thinking skills would have said we can’t afford this much, we need to do better, we need to find solutions that fit with our community. But instead of turning it down, revising the construction plans, looking farther and deeper for another company, the bid was accepted and the excuses began to flow.
Yes, we had illegal effluent discharge that was costing the city money in fines. Yes, we needed a solution. That was never denied by our group. The point of contention was borrowing $44 million which we clearly could not afford. So rather than look for a better solution to our problem, the city decided to push the problem to the future, which is what they decried past councils had done, and the future is now.
And yes, deja vu, once again. We’re hearing the same arguments as before on the rate increases. It’s only a small amount, you won’t even notice it. Sure thing. In 2007 I was paying $40 for water and sewer. Now I’m paying $89 with more increases on the horizon, annually, for both the water and sewer with no end in sight because we all know, the city has admitted as much, that these increases will NOT be the last. So the misinformation and sound bites are coming from the council, not the citizens.
But none of this negates the fact that this loan, no matter what is done to modify, is more than the population of this city can bear. The same argument being used to lower our interest rate to zero will be the argument after the fact when we are still unable to meet our obligations. With a whistle blower coming forward with the claim that there’s been illegal tampering with the controls to get our effluent discharge to an acceptable level, it’s clear our sewer has more problems than the public has been told and will need more and more money to keep us in compliance legally. So to say that this latest rate increase will be the end of increases, well, it’s just fantasy. It’s the misinformation and sound bites that Holley was talking about, only it’s coming from the council.
The bottom line here is that the people of this community cannot trust our local government to be honest or to listen to ideas outside their bubble. Look at where that has gotten us. We wouldn’t be here today, Councilwoman. Schellong, if you and your council cohorts would have listened and not insisted on being right even when you were dead wrong. This community cannot take much more of this imperialistic mindset. People are disillusioned, saddened, and even angry about the merry path you’ve all led us on with your arrogance and willful ignorance. Will it ever change? Looking at the comments and disregard coming from the current council it’s plain nothing will change and no lessons were learned. You know what they say about not learning from history….