Cd'A prepares to send wastewater upgrades to voters - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Cd'A prepares to send wastewater upgrades to voters

City Council votes 4-2 to begin crafting ballot language on issue

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Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Possible change of course.

The city of Coeur d'Alene is considering asking voters for approval for millions of dollars in upgrades for its wastewater treatment plant instead of getting the go-ahead from a judge because of one councilman's pledge to tie up the matter in court.

The City Council voted 4 to 2 Tuesday for staff to begin crafting what language on the ballot could look like if the city should send the issue to ballot in May.

A couple months ago, the city unanimously sought a judicial confirmation that would allow the city to spend at least $33 million in upgrades to the plant in light of stricter federal discharge requirements.

But Councilman Steve Adams - who voted in favor of the judicial confirmation - reversed his stance about a month ago and said he would appeal 1st District Judge John Luster's decision should Luster rule in favor of the city.

That appeal would likely tie up the matter in court, City Attorney Mike Gridley said, and hamstring the city when it comes to following the compliance schedule to which it agreed with several other agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Quality.

"Out of 44,000 people in Coeur d'Alene and one person has been able to string this out a year," Gridley said, of the position Adams took. "We thought this fit so squarely with the judicial confirmation process."

The city, along with other dischargers on the Spokane River, has about five years to implement upgrades to its facility that would tighten discharge levels into the river. If it doesn't meet those standards, it would face about $1 million in fines per month. It could also mean that the DEQ could forbid any new development from tapping into the wastewater treatment plant's services.

Those factors led the city to seek a judicial confirmation from Luster because the judge could rule they are ordinary and necessary improvements, thereby bypassing the requirement that the city get voter approval to take on the debt.

Now, with the appeal possibly looming, Gridley said Tuesday it would be prudent to prepare a possible ballot to put the matter to election so the city could skip the lengthy litigation process and still meet the compliance schedule.

"It angers me," said Woody McEvers, councilman, on the change of direction because of Adams' stance. "I want to vote no because it's bull, but I have to vote yes or we all go terribly down."

Kootenai County must be informed by April 5 if the city plans to have an election. Luster, who took the judicial confirmation under advisement, should rule by March 27. The city will vote April 2 if it will go for an election in May.

If it goes to ballot, it would need 50 percent plus one to pass.

Adams has said he favors giving voters the choice. His change in opinion caused a verbal dust up with Gridley during a meeting earlier this month, where Gridley swore at Adams. The two haven't seen eye to eye on the matter since, with Gridley saying he can't advise Adams on legal issues surrounding the matter should they arise since Adams sided against the rest of the council.

On Tuesday, Adams said he filed a complaint against Gridley to the Idaho Bar Association, and called DEQ threats resulting from non-compliance as speculation at this point, which prompted Wastewater Superintendent Sid Fredrickson to balk.

This "sky is falling rhetoric is speculative," Adams said.

"I have 40 years experience, councilman," Fredrickson said. "I have seen it."

Another option would have been to raise user rates 23.5 percent a year for the next five years to pay for improvements. That would take a $24 residential bill to $70 a month in 2017. Under the judicial confirmation, user rates would rise from $24 to about $35 in the same time frame, but the city would have decades to pay it back.

The city is moving forward amending its budget to possibly pay around $75,000 in costs related to the election.

McEvers and Councilman Mike Kennedy voted against exploring the ballot option.

This is "disheartening to contemplate why this is happening," Kennedy said.

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17 comments:

  • local guy posted at 1:36 pm on Sat, Mar 23, 2013.

    local guy Posts: 26

    Possibly we (taxpayers) would not be this mess so deep if 3.1 million had not been stolen from the storm sewer fund to fill the krock hole on ramsey. Sure would have put a dent in the upcoming costs. hummm

     
  • Humanist posted at 1:54 pm on Fri, Mar 22, 2013.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    And that begs the question, what is the point of Adams' stance? One way or another the waste-water project is going to cost us. AND, going to a vote is going to cost an extra $60,000. The only thing that voters saying "no" will do is delay the project and make it more difficult to reach compliance within that time frame. It's not like the EPA is going to extend the deadline if voters say "no"........This entire exercise is totally pointless.

     
  • Humanist posted at 1:49 pm on Fri, Mar 22, 2013.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    Quote Ziggy: "But know this folks, CdA has no choice in the matter. The officials did not dream this up. This has been coming down the pike for years and the time to pay the piper has arrived. "

    Yup. And the amazing thing is that the people posting below seem to be failing to grasp that reality. If the voters no, it doesn't matter. The City STILL has to comply within the given time frame. I'm still struggling with understanding Adams rationale for this stunt. It comes down to a couple of possible reasons: 1. He did it because he had the power to do so, and 2. He did it to totally disrupt what would normally be a reasonable process and to stir things up in an election year.

     
  • Ziggy posted at 11:07 am on Thu, Mar 21, 2013.

    Ziggy Posts: 1295

    This bond issue or vote has nothing to do with wanting to spend money or even that the permit was expired.
    It has everything to do with the Spokane River TMDL. The parties have negotiated a settlement. This is a major win for Idaho because the first go around was vastly unfair to Idaho. This settlement is the best Idaho could get
    But know this folks, CdA has no choice in the matter. The officials did not dream this up. This has been coming down the pike for years and the time to pay the piper has arrived. Ditto for Hayden and Post Falls. None of them have any choice. The EPA will come down to the tune of $35,000 per day if they don't comply. The can and they will. There is no wiggle room in this at all. So the city council was correct and tried to save the tax payers the money of holding an election and this could have been done legally except that Adams has now cost all the taxpayers the price of an election. If they vote it down, the sewer bills will double or triple. EPA will see to that. The money will come from somewhere and the bond was the most painless way. Too bad someone with no scientific understanding of the Spokane River TMDL has ruined a process that has been years on the negotiating table between Idaho, Washington and EPA. Shame.

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:49 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    straight up

    OMG thank you. How quickly we forget. You are correct. That is why the need to saddle the "TAXPAYERS" with the cost. So they can develop the"EDUCATION" (cough cough) corridor at OUR expense.

     
  • straight up posted at 6:58 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    straight up Posts: 967

    Who really thought that when the coalition of NIC/LCDC and City Council ramrodded the, drum roll please..brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr......

    Education Corridor (with convenient waterfront commercial development attached) would take place without a significant prettying up of the sewage treatment facility taking place?

    What kind of upscale waterfront boutique owner or condo buyer really wants to buy adjacent to, "that place?" EEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!

    One just might think that this "improvement" was in the works all along as part of some boiler room deal between the city and the developers.

    "Pardon me, young lady, but my Sauvignon blanc has a rather strong, pungent odor to it."

    "Uh, ma'am, that's not your wine you smell."

    This one is going to be really fun to watch play out!

     
  • DeNiles posted at 1:16 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Let me get this straight in my mind. If all of our council folks would've supported this idea the courts would have just rubber stamped their unanimous decision and not applied the laws? So, when 100% agreement amongst our council types was assured how many times did the courts shirk their duties? What ever happened to check and balances? Why have judges if they're owned by the politicians?

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 12:35 pm on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Mary

    Could it be to entice their rich developer friends to build more high rise condos at our expense?

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 10:37 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    Mary Souza Posts: 814

    The cost of the wastewater project will be exactly the same if the voters pass the bond or if the judge rules in favor. There's no difference, but this Press article seems to incorrectly imply otherwise.

    The first deadline for compliance is in 5 years and the city has seen this coming for much more than a decade. So why are they bringing forward this massive spending project right now, on the heels of the McEuen overspending?

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 8:56 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    LTRLTR hit the nail right on the head.

    This is about FUTURE demand. Just like new schools increasing demand. DEVELOPERS should pay for it. NOT the current residents.

    Thank you Councilman Adams for protecting the rights of the citizens.

     
  • Miketeague posted at 8:24 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    Miketeague Posts: 2629

    First I don’t understand why will it cost more if we vote on it then if a judge rules it or is this something that needs to go through the treatment plant. Second what was the Real Edict given by DEQ? And third the cost of McEuen would pay for how much of this oh wait it’s not tax payer money so they can’t use it.

     
  • ancientemplar posted at 8:14 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1287

    The bent of the Press can be learned by what is not said in the article. The reporter mentioned the cost of raising rates for the next five years and the cost to the user under judicial confirmation, the latter about 1/2 of the former ($35-$70. What he didn't bother to tell you is that under a public vote, if approved, the cost would be the same as with judicial confirmation, both bond deals.

    Interesting how it was written to side with the council.

     
  • libertybell316 posted at 8:02 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    libertybell316 Posts: 6

    Facts: (1) The upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant has been known since 2008 when there was an initial study completed so this is not new, there is no fire drill, it can and should be decided by the voters. (2) This bond amount is not the entire cost of the treatment plant upgrade - just a small portion. (3) based on what I have heard this is the most expensive alternative technology selected and the city council has not reviewed the study to fully understand what they are agreeing to.

    The questions to the city council are:
    1. Do you understand that you work for the residents of CDA?
    2. Do you understand your legal obligations as a city council member? Meaning do you understand the law? Have you read the constitution?? I was amazed to hear Kennedy quiz Adams as if Adams should not be reading and FOLLOWING the constitution.
    3. Does the city council know if a final permit has been issued by the EPA? Has it? the citizens know do you?
    4. Does the city council understand the system that is proposed is a staged approach and is it prepared to present to the citizens that this initial fund is not the complete picture.

    As always the city council acts with anger and arrogance - two traits that destroy.

     
  • Justin Cottrell posted at 7:59 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    Justin Cottrell Posts: 157

    I notice the article puts a timeline on it for the first time, "about five years". This is contrary to what Jester Kennedy said at the council meeting, when he acted like the DEQ was outside the door with ticket-book in hand.

     
  • mister d posted at 7:53 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    We should be happy we get to vote on this and continue to feel manipulated that we didn't get to vote on the downtown park. I guess voters are smart enough to vote on how their cr*p is cared for but not smart enough to decide where the tourist play.

     
  • LTRLTR posted at 7:37 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    Each Wastewater upgrade is to meet DEQ requirements and meet future demand.

    WHAT? Existing property owners have to pay for new development pxxp?

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:12 am on Wed, Mar 20, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Thank you Councilman Adams for looking out for the taxpayers.

     
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