Citizens to decide wastewater issue - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Citizens to decide wastewater issue

City Council votes to put funding question on May 21 ballot

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Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - It's going to a vote.

The Coeur d'Alene City Council agreed Thursday to ask voters for the authority to borrow up to $36.3 million for federally mandated upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant.

The City Council begrudgingly voted 4 to 1 to put the up or down question on a ballot for the May 21 election as a way to prevent one councilman from handcuffing the city's options by tying the issue up in court.

It means the city all but will abandon its preferred route - judicial confirmation - which would be the less expensive option.

But the council said an election is the best route to take to prevent the project from possibly stalling.

"This is ridiculous. We shouldn't be here," said Mike Kennedy, councilman. "Steve put us all in a very bad position over an ideological matter that I think is a misunderstanding of Idaho state law."

The city explored going to a vote after councilman Steve Adams said he would appeal a judge's decision on the confirmation if the judge ruled in favor of the city. Adams, who originally voted in favor of judicial confirmation, changed his mind last month and spoke out against it in court, saying he preferred to go to election, as the state constitution outlines.

A judicial confirmation is when a judge orders a project is "ordinary and necessary," and therefore voter approval isn't necessary for a municipality to take on debt to fund it as it normally is because the project must happen. It's the route the city has taken in the past to pay for upgrades to the plant.

But an appeal could take a year in court. Too long, the rest of the council said, so it better cover its bases and prepare for an election.

"This situation should have never happened," Councilman Ron Edinger said, the lone councilman to vote against going to a vote, but the same councilman who supported a public vote on the McEuen Field redevelopment project, along with Adams. "This is a little different than, say, like McEuen. This is something we have to have. McEuen, we didn't."

Also at issue was the cost of judicial confirmation versus an election.

It will be more expensive to secure a bond on the open market compared to IDEQ loans the city had originally pinpointed to pay for at least a portion of the project, City Finance Director Troy Tymesen said.

The city had been ready to secure a $7.7 million IDEQ loan at a 2 percent interest rate to pay for the first phase of upgrades to the plant. The interest rate on the proposed bond issue, according to the bond ordinance, is estimated at 3.24 percent.

It's not to say the election rate is $3 million more than judicial confirmation, which was around $33 million, Tymesen said, but higher issuance rates, interest rates, and bond reserve rates factor in to the increased amount compared to IDEQ's figures.

City Councilman Dan Gookin, who often votes with Adams on issues, said the city would be better off getting the better rates than going to a vote.

"I love ya, Steve," Gookin said, asking for Adams to withdraw his appeal pledge. "But I think there has to be balance here."

Adams didn't withdraw his pledge, and said after the meeting - where several comments were directed at him - that he was pleased the issue was going to a vote.

"Tensions were high," he said, after the meeting. "They're not happy with me."

But he added: "I have to stick to my guns. I'm not going to compromise the integrity of the Constitution for interest points. I can't do it, in principle."

Now, it should be up to the voters, regardless of which way 1st District Judge John Luster rules on the confirmation, a ruling that is expected to come this week.

The timeline for everything is pinched because federal, state and other municipalities are on the verge of agreeing to new discharge requirements for several wastewater plants, including Coeur d'Alene, after several years of haggling. New discharge permits could be issued this summer, which means the compliance schedule - and possible penalties for not reaching benchmarks - would start for dischargers like Coeur d'Alene that discharge into the Spokane River.

If the election fails in Coeur d'Alene, and the permits for dischargers are issued anyway, another option to pay for the required upgrades would be to raise rates about 23 percent a year over the next five years.

Then, residential monthly bills would increase from around $24 to $70, and commercial rates would go from roughly $7 to $20 per thousand gallons.

That would hammer business, Mayor Sandi Bloem said. Businesses looking to locate here would choose Post Falls and Hayden over Coeur d'Alene precisely because of those rates. Post Falls and Hayden, which also discharge into the Spokane River, are landing their money for plant upgrades through judicial confirmations.

"And then people who ran on jobs and job creation - there will not be jobs. We won't keep the jobs we have," she said, looking at Adams.

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  • Ziggy posted at 1:54 pm on Mon, Apr 1, 2013.

    Ziggy Posts: 1193

    What the CdA WWTP must meet are new requirements coming down the pike from EPA. DEQ was merely your advocate in these negotiations trying to get the most cost effective deal for CdA. They did the best they could, but these new requirements have everything to do with the Spokane River TMDL. The requirements that are coming down the line are all new and CdA must meet these requirements period.
    The CdA plant must upgrade as must Hayden and Post Falls. The bond issue was the easiest on the taxpayers. If the bond issue is voted down, sewer rates will be increased, period.
    Hopefully the citizens will try to get educated and understand the issue. Just like there are federal rules about air travel, taxes, interstate commerce, crimes across statelines, etc. and on and on and on, there are federal rules about clean water, in this case, the Spokane River.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:51 am on Sat, Mar 30, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530


    As noted below directly from the wastewater website. We are ALREADY meeting to requirements of the DEQ. So you tell us whats up. The proposed plan is for expansion and future hookups. Why should that be saddled on the backs of existing taxpayers?

  • Timeless posted at 8:34 pm on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    Timeless Posts: 480

    Could it be ...that there is nothing to " expose"?! Oh my!! What conspiracy will you dream up next?

  • aayupp posted at 11:35 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    aayupp Posts: 316

    talk about feeling alone on an island - good for you steve and its about time we have someone in this town has some "you know what" -- right or wrong- pretty impressive to me. its clear gridley and the mayor will do whatever the enemy (the feds) demand them to do, i mean, with out a good fight first.

    i mean what the heck has fredrickson been doing at that plant all the upgrades and money spent over there and on and on it goes for a little tiny berg like cda- and i thought they were already touting how much of a state of the art plant they had built over the years, but apprently, its still spewing toxic waste into the river? is this beacuse the cda lake is pretty much a mine tailings pond, in reality? and will never clean up no matter what you do and how much money you throw at it. polluted for ever the prstine lake cda. thats why it sparkes so when the light hits it just right.

  • librtyhuntr posted at 9:11 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    librtyhuntr Posts: 317

    Ya get a loan from the idaho department of enviroment equality, then feel the thumb scews turn. remember the old saying if it ain't broke don't fix it. beaurocrats have to make regulations upon regulations to justify their jobs! We the people have to do what we can to down size ALL of the alphabet agencies in order to get government managble, very tough row to plow...

  • SPUDIO posted at 8:53 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    SPUDIO Posts: 101

    You people should all go back to where ever you came from and take cotton head cottrell with ya don't you live in Hayden justine! Bunch of phony whiners with no common sense. I've known Steve Adams for 35 yrs and he has definitely changed .Don't have any idea what happened to him and I think it's sad, used to seem to be a little more level headed but that's good old extremism foy you!

  • DeNiles posted at 8:41 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Gookin is very disappointing on this issue. Regardless of any costs the key issue is to expose how these leaders use their power and how they waste public funds on pet projects geared to improve their personal situations. You seize this opportunity and use it to highlight their egregious mismanagement.

    We have the LCDC to improve infrastructure and not to just pay for baubles. We do not need McEuen. We could have paid far less for the education corridor. NO tax dollars for the Kroc pot. Where's the cities emergency funds? How many city employees make over $100K per year?

    Sorry Dan, love ya, but you got this one wrong. Remember, you're supposed to be about the citizens - and not a foot licking lackey in Queen Sandy's council court of head bobbers.

  • boohoo2U posted at 8:37 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    boohoo2U Posts: 406

    Another reason to get rid of another Mikey - legal ineptness.

    SPOKANE CAN'T CLEAN UP THEIR OWN MESS, but demands we stream only pristine water.
    CDA Peons, ooops SERFS, should gather at the river for a collective leak on Easter Sunday!

    PCBs – Spokane River clean-up: update

    On Thursday, March 28, Sierra Club and CELP completed a 4-day hearing at the Pollution Control Hearings Board in Tumwater on our challenge to prevent further PCB pollution in the state's most polluted river, the Spokane River.

    What Sierra Club and CELP set out to prove was that Spokane County’s new sewage treatment plant is adding PCBs to the Spokane River (the state’s most PCB-polluted), thereby violating the State’s and Tribal water quality standards. Pollution discharge permits may not be issued if they contribute pollution to an already impaired water body (one of the plainer statements of law involving the Clean Water Act).

    Sierra Club and CELP proved their case - with added help from Spokane County’s own expert who acknowledged that the County’s plant is discharging PCBs to the River. The legal challenge reveals a shell game in which Spokane County plans to expand its new sewage plant plus use its capacity in the older City-County sewage facility near the VA hospital – all with more PCBs going into the River over time.

    The Pollution Control Hearings Board will issue a decision within the next 3 months.

    Still to come is a federal lawsuit filed by Sierra Club and CELP focusing on the failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete a PCB clean-up plan for the Spokane River. The severely polluted Spokane River badly needs that clean-up plan (called a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL) to meet State and Tribal water quality standards. Stay tuned.

    We thank members of our team, including Richard Smith (lead attorney of Smith and Lowney), attorneys Rachael Paschal Osborn and Suzanne Skinner, PCB toxicologist Peter deFur, and Brian Crossley water program director for the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

    John Osborn MD
    Sierra Club, Center for Environmental Law & Policy

    Link to PCBs - Spokane River Clean-up website:

  • mister d posted at 8:31 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    My vote will have to be no. The mayors wasteful upgrade of a perfectly good park took any extra money I have in diverted taxes. Good job mayor and council. I have always paid for needs first, too bad you don't.

  • Justin Cottrell posted at 8:07 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    Justin Cottrell Posts: 157

    Shhh you're going to expose the little man behind the curtain for all to see. Jester Kennedy, and his buddy D. F. SlobOveria want us to think the DEQ ticket writer is waiting in Sandi's office, ticket book in hand. They don't want the illusion to be noticed.


  • Justin Cottrell posted at 7:39 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    Justin Cottrell Posts: 157

    Hey nobody doubts Queen Bloem! She has the interest of her serfs in mind.

  • LTRLTR posted at 7:30 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    Folks: The Press reported some communication with DEQ in Thursdays paper. I copied it here to point out that there is no dire emergency as the Council continues to attack Council Member Adams. Research information regarding the draft permit and you will find it has been a work in progress for several years. Please read below.......

    'Here's how the remaining schedule could shake out: The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will likely send a 401 certification to the EPA in about two weeks. Once it's in the EPA's hands, and changes to the draft permits aren't needed, the permits will be opened for public comment for up to 60 days. If changes aren't warranted after public comment is taken, final permits should be issued.'

    'hat could be months out yet, Coeur d'Alene, IDEQ and EPA officials told The Press.'

    'But once the final permits are issued, the compliance schedule starts. The compliance schedule is spread out over 10 years, with dischargers needing to hit benchmark requirements in year increments along the way'.

    'The first benchmark is exactly one year after the permit is issued. And while it's a 10-year timeline, the final benchmark includes two years of data reported with it'.

    'If compliance isn't met, fines for not complying could hit around $1 million a month, and the EPA could prohibit new development from tapping into the wastewater plant system.'

  • Flash Gordon posted at 7:27 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    Flash Gordon Posts: 1387

    The most disingenuous city council in my life time. Push the McEuen project through at a very stiff cost over run and then "oh, by the way, the waste water treatment facility needs an upgrade"...........

    Well, wait a minute, the waste water treatment facility upgrade must be another Kennedy legacy, fitting:)

  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:17 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    The sole purpose of Urban Renewal is to finance and provide Infrastructure. I do believe waste water does fall under the category of infrastructure. The wast water plant is within the boundaries of the LCDC. Why isn't the money wasted on McEuen being used for this purpose?

  • straight up posted at 7:11 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    straight up Posts: 948

    Narcissim Personified.

    Blame a scapegoat. Not my fault, somebody elses.

    Nevermind that the priorities have been to cater to the hoity-toity crowd and building a McMansion of a Park.

    Job creation? Huh? Who on the city council has concentrated on that?

    These waste water standards just came falling out of the sky over the last few weeks right? Yeah, uh, huh.

    Here's the litmus test.

    Study City Councul Agendas to see what subjects have been placed there as priorities. Then study how many minutes/hours have been spent on building parks and feeding LCDC tax money and how many minutes/hours have been spent on job creation and a looming Federal deadline for waste water treatment standard increases.

    Then, you will know the level of competence among those who run the city

  • straight up posted at 7:09 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    straight up Posts: 948

    Narcissim Personified.

    Blame a scapegoat. Not my fault, somebody elses.

    Nevermind that the priorities have been to cater to the hoity-toity crowd and building a McMansion of a Park.

    Job creation? Huh? Who on the city council has concentrated on that?

    These waste water standards just came falling out of the sky over the last few weeks right? Yeah, uh, huh.

    Here's the litmus test.

    Study City Councul Agendas to see what subjects have been placed there as priorities. Then study how many minutes/hours have been spent on building parks and feeding LCDC tax money and how many minutes/hours have been spent on job creation and a looming Federal deadline for waste water treatment standard increases.

    Then, you will know the level of competence among those who run the city.

  • DeNiles posted at 6:59 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    So the Mayor says we 'need' to fix the wastewater plant but we did not NEED to fix McEuen where she squandered the $$$$$ needed to fix the wastewater issue. The Mayor forced the public to pay for an unneeded project and is all worried that they will not approve the needed project.

    Why does this remind of the idiot who'll buy a Cadillac and not pay his electric bill?

  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:26 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    LTRLTR Please forgive me for the copy and paste of the information that you posted on the previous article on the wastewater shenanigans. I felt it very important to get it at the front for taxpayers to see how we are being scammed by the local government and their stakeholder friends for their personal profit. We need this information to remain public knowledge before the city has it removed from their website as they have done in the past with content that was controversial and was in conflict with the load of BULL fertilizer they were trying to sell us.

    So without any further interruption, I give you the posts of LTRLTR :)

    LTRLTR posted at 10:38 am on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    I have mentioned that Wastewater Treatment plant improvements are always in motion in trying to stay ahead of DEQ requirements.
    City officials are always in motion too, using scare tactics as Councilmember Adams has expressed. "Adams is correct in that hard compliance deadlines haven't been established."
    I went online to search the council minutes where upgrades have been approved just in the last few years. The following is from council minutes.
    'The wastewater utility in 2001 received judicial confirmation to upgrade the plant in aggregate to
    $28,000,000.00. The first bonds were issued in 2007 for $15,000,000.00 and acquired by DEQ."
    'Council approved the DEQ loan in December 2009. The maximum dollar amount was $13,000,000.'
    So since 2001, a total of $28 million has been completed. Now the city is asking for $36.3 million for another 10 years.
    Folks: There is no emergency to justify the Mayor and cohorts treating people the way they do and call people uninformed and morons/xxxxx.
    I personally ask the citizens of Coeur d'Alene to do your own research on reasons why you should remove the Mayor and cohorts from their official positions or show your support in their personal agendas.

    LTRLTR posted at 11:12 am on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    I would like to offer up one more piece of information.
    The City of Coeur d’Alene forced Wastewater to lease out Harbor Center for 99 years to the University of Idaho for $10 a year. Harbor Center was purchased with your funding from your monthly sewer bill.
    The City of Coeur d’Alene had a choice to sell Harbor Center to pay for sewer plant upgrades, keep Harbor Center for for future plant upgrades, or make the property owners double pay for utility services to help pay for education.
    It appears the Wastewater Utility is a front for other pet projects at the citizen's expense. Don't you agree?

    LTRLTR posted at 2:00 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    Read below facts from the city wastewater website. Please note that the City exceeds current DEQ standards. No dire emergency as stated by your city officials
    *****Wastewater Utility Facts*****
    Collection System: 210 miles of pipe, 3700 manholes and 10 “lift stations".
    Treatment Plant: Primary Trickling Filter/Solids Contact ® Secondary Clarification ® Disinfection/De-chlorination.
    Average BOD Removal = 97% (Required 85%)
    Average Total Suspended Solids Removal = 96% (Required 85%)
    Average Summer Phosphorus Removal = 86% (Required 85%)
    Average Daily Summer Ammonia Treatment = 563 pounds
    Population Served = 44,000+
    Number of Customers (Accounts) = 17,900
    Average Daily Sewage Per Person = 74 gallons per day
    Chemical Cost Per Day for Phosphorus Removal = $600.00
    Chorine Used Per Day = 100 Pounds
    Sulfur Dioxide Used Per Day = 32 Pounds
    Annual Plant Gas & Electric Bill = $261,000
    Average Daily Dry-Weather Flow = 3.6 million gallons per day
    Maximum Peak Daily Flow Capacity = 20 mgd
    Nominal Design Flow Without Nitrification = 6 mgd
    Staffed 7 days a week; 8 hours a day; 365 days a year.
    Compost: Aerated Static Piles with Aerated Curing. 21 Days in Piles Followed By 30 Days of Curing.
    Total Utility Staff = 6 plant operators; 1 plant mechanic; 6 collection operators; 3 lab analysts; 2 compost operators; 7 administrative & project managers = 25 or 7.5% of total city staff of 280.
    Typical annual revenues = $20.3 million or 27% of a total city budget of $76.4 million.
    Typical annual expenditures = $15.5 million or 23% of a total city budget of $66.6 million.

    LTRLTR posted at 2:57 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    Mary Souza:
    My information is from the City's website. My only intent is to show the scare tactics do not line up with the truth.
    If the typical annual revenues are $20.3 million and typical annual expenditures are $15.5 million, than what happens to the typical revenue balance of $5 million each year? Just food for thought!

  • voxpop posted at 5:17 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    So new businesses (all minimum wage of course) will go elsewhere. Right. That's why Cda Mines left, I guess. And if rates go up, OH! those poor businesses. They STILL won't be paying their fair share will they. The city council knew about this for years, AND the Cda Press knew ... but no one really talked about the impact until AFTER the McEuen fiasco. This scenario isn't even the tiniest bit odd though, is it. Downtown businesses wanted the park, the underground garage, and the $20M (but likely much more). And they all worked together with local pols to get it. Sounding more and more like collusion every day.

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