Concern over Waste Water Project vote
April 28, 2022
At their April 12 meeting, the Dayton City Council voted 4-3 to forgo 2 years of work, and about $200,000 to say “no” to purchasing land on which to build a new wastewater treatment plant. After years of research and planning an innovative, economical, and environmentally conscious facility, the majority offered no alternative location or plan.
A new wastewater treatment facility was an urgent need when I moved here 11 years ago. It’s been a long and frustrating process for city staff, council, and the public, with many delays and roadblocks along the way. The wetlands project that the city has been working on for the last 2 years seems like a good solution. It would be less expensive to build and maintain than a traditional facility. It wouldn’t require much expertise to operate, and it would return water into the river.
The Department of Ecology has demanded that the city make progress toward a new wastewater treatment plant or potentially face fines. Council member Aukerman has assured us that the Department of Ecology won’t view this “no” vote as a setback, but rather as progress. Maybe the DOE will see this abandoned plan, one which they have signed off on and Mayor Weatherford says they enthusiastically endorsed and were “buzzing about” at all levels, as “progress” but I’m not sure how many people in the community will feel the same. I’m not sure I have the patience and imagination to view 2 years of due diligence to make sure these parcels were suitable for the project, not to mention $16,000 in earnest money and $30,000 in rent flushed down the toilet, as forward movement.
Why did the council decide to vote no? Answers have ranged from the asking price of the land, to the size of the parcels, to concerns about flooding, to some mysterious reasons we aren’t allowed to know because it was addressed in executive session. Most of these reasons have been addressed over the last couple of years. The asking price of the land is twice the appraised value and the size doesn’t allow for growth. However, these parcels are suitable for our needs and are for sale in a small market. Now that this project is on hold, it may be years before the city is ready to purchase another parcel. These land owners have willingly allowed entities to do all the testing and investigative work necessary at this stage. Does council anticipate a larger parcel becoming available at a lower price? The flooding concern has been addressed by Anderson Perry, the engineers heading up the project. It’s a wetland project and flooding is anticipated. Unlike a structural facility, flooding will be much easier and cheaper to address. I can’t rebut the mysterious unknown reasons council has for voting no, but I can point out, as the new council members should by now be aware, information in that executive session is no longer privileged as the purchase price is no longer a concern. See RCW 126.96.36.199b.
What’s the plan now? We don’t know. When asked during the public comment portion of the council meeting, one of the majority members only chuckled derisively, as if this was a stupid question. Citizens of Dayton, do you think it’s a stupid question? I was assured by Council Member Aukerman that there’s no hidden agenda. There doesn’t seem to be a discernible agenda either. Council will have a workshop on April 27 at 9:00am, in person or via Zoom. Maybe we’ll find out then.