The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Justin Jaech
The Times 

Dayton wastewater treatment project stalled again

 


Land purchase voted down in split city council vote.

DAYTON- The Dayton City Council held a regular meeting at 6 p.m., May 10, 2022. Mayor Zac Weatherford and council members Misty Yost, Teeny McMunn, Dain Nysoe, Kyle Anderson, and Tyler (Tiger) Dieu were present at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church parish hall, while Laura Aukerman attended on Zoom.

The city council voted unanimously to authorize the mayor to sign an annual membership for $35 with the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC). MRSC is a nonprofit organization offering local governments in Washington legal and policy guidance on most topics, including major legislation, Public Records Act, Growth Management Act, and other issues facing cities and counties. Nysoe said the organization had been prompt and responsive in addressing his questions and called it a valuable resource.

The council authorized the mayor to sign a proclamation declaring May 2022 as Older Americans Month on behalf of Aging and Long-Term Care.

The council also approved the Dayton Alumni Parade Route.

The mayor received three letters of intent to fill the vacant city council position vacated by the resignation of Marchand Hovrud. Dave Schreck submitted his letter on April 18, Heather Hiebert submitted hers on April 19, and Shannon McMillen submitted her letter of intent on May 4. The mayor asked each applicant the same series of questions and then retired into an executive session at 6:33 p.m. for twenty minutes to discuss the appointment.

After the council returned to the public session, Aukerman moved to appoint Shannon McMillen to the open position. Anderson seconded the motion. The motion passed with Aukerman, Yost, Anderson, and Dieu voting for McMillen’s appointment and McMunn and Nysoe voting against it.

Reporting for the Public Safety Committee, Anderson said the city had filled the swimming pool with 120 yards of soil, with perhaps another 250 to go. The city intends to fill the pool at least to the four-foot level.

Aukerman, reporting for the Public Works Committee, said the committee could not meet because she was out of town.

She said, “Wastewater treatment plant is huge. It’s huge on our list. We have not in any way, shape, or form decided that it’s a no-go. I mean, it has to happen. So as soon as I get back to Dayton, my goal is to move forward with that.”

Presenting the finance report, Deb Hayes reminded the council that the current insurance policy covers all properties, including those the city might purchase. She said a new wastewater treatment plant built under the current plans would not result in added exorbitant insurance costs as suggested. She also said the insurance policy covered flood damage with a $200,000 deductible for each event.

Weatherford presented Resolution 1489 A, authorizing a final purchase agreement with landowners Bryan Martin and Barker Family Farms for the wastewater treatment plant using the completed low slope water treatment design. The current plan had been brought forward by prior city councils and mayors, including Mayor George, and was previously blocked by the current council over the land purchase.

Anderson continued to propose replacing the current wetland plan with one using wastewater for irrigation. Weatherford reminded the council that an irrigation plan would not return water to the water table, and many supporting agencies and organizations would no longer offer support or funding.

Anderson said he had documentation for “a ton of funding” available for irrigation projects and experts who support the irrigation idea. He did not provide the council with the specific funding information or names of the experts. The information offered before the meeting by Anderson on portable fluid storage tanks was provided by the manufacturer, C-fficiency Systems Inc.

McMunn spoke in favor of continuing with the current low slope discharge plan as it is already designed and approved with substantial funding backing the project. She didn’t see the advantage of starting the design phase again, delaying the project by years. She was concerned over the risk that after the expense of a re-design, it could result in a more expensive project.

McMunn suggested that the Martin and Barker properties might be bought on a contingency basis and held for a few months, allowing further research into the Anderson irrigation plan.

Nysoe said that the owners of the proposed properties would probably object to a contingency plan since the city had been trying to urgently buy the properties and then backed out. He said the city should authorize the purchase of the properties to move forward. Nysoe moved to accept Resolution 1489 A, seconded by Yost.

Aukerman said she wanted to discuss an e-mail from the Columbia Conservation District, “One of my concerns is that the packet includes discussion and e-mail from the Columbia Conservation District, the Washington State Fish and Wildlife conditional use comments, the Snake River Salmon Recovery Board, the Blue Mountain Trust, Tribes of the Umatilla conventional use comments, Technical Advisory Group meeting minutes, and I reviewed some of that, and there seems to be a lot of really interesting information in there that can help us make a better decision. What are your thoughts, council members?”

Mayor Weatherford said he was familiar with the material, and it was available for the council to see.

The mayor put the motion to a vote, and Yost, McMunn, and Nysoe voted to adopt Resolution 1489 A, proceeding with the land purchase. Anderson, Dieu, and Aukerman voted against it, and the motion did not carry. Weatherford said rules prevent him from breaking the tie. This vote negates the considerable work from past city councils on the wastewater treatment project, significantly delaying the replacement of the city’s currently insufficient wastewater treatment plant.

As a former Council Member, Mike Paris spoke to remind the current Council the city is under the gun and the extensions from the Department of Ecology may run, resulting in fines to the city.

The meeting adjourned.

Additional coverage:

Letter to Mayor Weatherford from Cynthia Wall

From: Fuller, CynthiaWall (COM)

Sent: Friday, May 13, 2022 11:27 AM

To: Zac Weatherford

Cc: Jake Hollopeter ; Prisock, Kimberly (ECY) ; Peterschmidt, Lucy (ECY) ; Dobb, Greg (ECY)

Subject: Dayton Design Loan

[External Email]

Good morning Mayor Weatherford,

Based on recent events, I feel it is important to update the city on the status of the Ecology design loan.

The two recent city council decisions to oppose the purchase of properties available and needed to design and construct a mechanical treatment plant with discharge to infiltration wetlands have a potential significant effect on the timeline of the current loan.

Dayton was awarded $990,000 in the Department of Ecology’s fiscal year 2019 funding cycle. The final offer list was published on May 30, 2018 and Dayton’s offer was for a low interest loan of $495,000 and a forgivable principal loan of $495,000. The interest rate for the loan is 2% over a 20-year payback period.

The current expiration date of Dayton’s loan agreement is December 31, 2022. WAC 173-98-810(2)(a) requires facility projects to be completed within five years of the publication date of the Ecology final offer list the project is listed on. After the five-year limit is reached, a time extension of no more than 12 months may be made with valid reasons supporting the time extension. In no event can the project be extended beyond six years of the publication date of the Final List identifying the project. The publication date of the Final Offer List was May 30, 2018.

This means the city can request an extension of time to April 30, 2023, which will be the end of the five-year period. A sixth year can be requested if a compelling need can be demonstrated, extending the expiration date of the loan to April 30, 2024. No additional extensions will be permitted. All agreement deliverables must be completed and submitted to Ecology before the loan expiration date.

I’m concerned the city will not be able to complete the required design deliverables by April 30, 2024. It appears the council would like to step back to the planning phase and evaluate other options for the required upgrade of the treatment plant. This will require the city to prepare and submit a facility plan amendment to Ecology with a new alternatives analysis and selected preferred alternative.

If I am correct in my interpretation of the council’s desires, I would recommend the city consider asking Ecology to close the current design loan and de-obligate the remaining funds. The city should consider applying to Ecology this fall for a planning loan, which would also be eligible for the 50/50 split between a standard loan and a forgivable principal loan to fund a facility plan amendment.

To date, the city has only requested $10,375 for reimbursement of design expenses. Because half of this amount is forgiven, the city has a loan balance of $5,187.50. It is possible Ecology will require the city to repay the loan amount if the contract deliverables can’t be met.

I feel it is important to remember Ecology has offered to add additional funding to the current design loan for land purchase. Typically, Ecology will fund land purchase as a part of a construction loan, but will not reimburse the recipient until after the project is completed. If the city opts to close the current design loan, they should be prepared to secure interim funding for land purchase.

This is a disappointing email to write since the proposed project is supported by Ecology and so many multiple parties involved in the overall watershed, but I feel it is an important piece of information that needs to be discussed as soon as possible. Please call me if you have questions.

Thanks,

Cynthia

Cynthia Wall Fuller | Project Manager

Small Communities Initiative | Washington State Department of Commerce

10 N. Post Street, Suite 445

Spokane, WA 99201

An email to Councilmember McMunn in response to questions about storage tanks

From: Fuller, CynthiaWall (COM)

Date: Thu, May 12, 2022 at 2:38 PM

Subject: RE: [SMS Message from a mobile subscriber]

To: Teeny McMunn

Good afternoon Teeny,

I am getting back to you about a question regarding possibly using storage tanks sold by C-fficiency Systems. I spoke with Ken yesterday and he was very helpful. While this concept might work in theory, I have several thoughts about it.

· My primary concern is these are not currently an approved method of storage in Ecology’s “Criteria for Sewage Works Design”. All components of a wastewater design must be reviewed and approved by a Department of Ecology engineer. The process to get a new type of collection system design approved for use can be a lengthy process and doesn’t always result in Ecology’s approval.

· If I understand correctly, one of the benefits to these tanks is there is no excavation needed and they would occupy less space than a traditional lagoon because they are higher and don’t have the slope needed for a lagoon that takes up space. Doing some very basic math using the standard volume of a 50’ x 100’ tank, the city would need between 20-40 of these tanks to have the required 40-60 days of summertime storage required at the irrigation site. Tanks this size would need about 2.3 – 4.6 acres of land for siting. The approximate size of a lagoon for seasonal storage would be about 3-5 acres. The footprint could possibly be made smaller if the tanks were made higher than the standard 14’, but this would again need to be approved by Ecology’s Office of Dam Safety.

· I don’t know the cost per tank, but it seems like it could get very expensive if the city need to purchase 40 of them for use.

· Aesthetically, a single lagoon seems preferable to a lot of oddly colored tanks that sit high in the air. That’s just my opinion though!

You had a question about funding for land acquisition. Ecology has offered to add loan funding to the city’s current design loan for land purchase. The city currently has an agreement with Ecology for a 50% forgiveness loan. The total loan amount is $990,000, so the city would be repaying $495,000 at 2% interest over 20 years for design. If the city added $1,000,000 for land purchase, it would be a loan at the same 2% interest, but without any principal forgiveness. I did a very rough calculation on what that would cost the city, and it looks like it would be around $52,000 a year for repayment. I’m unsure how many users Dayton has on the system, but if you know that number, you could break down the annual payment into cost per month divided by ratepayers and find out the amount per household. Although that looks like a lot of money, when you break it down, it doesn’t end up having much of an impact on user rates.

I know the mayor has mentioned this before, but Ecology normally doesn’t offer this kind of loan for land purchase. They will pay for land, but typically the community has to find other funding, purchase the land and design and construct the project before Ecology will reimburse for the land purchase.

Regarding the loan/grant scenario, I have a document I sent to a citizen today that I have been keeping and adding to that shows the possibilities for funding for the wetland system. I added a second scenario for funding a conventional land treatment system as a comparison. I’ve attached the document to this email.

Please keep in mind the funding sources are not guaranteed, and that all the numbers in my email are very rough calculations and might be higher or lower than what I’m sending you.

I hope this helps. If you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Thanks,

Cynthia

Email and attachment to the mayor and councilmembers from Aneesha Dieu on behalf of Columbia Conservation District

From: Aneesha Dieu

Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2022 10:27 PM

To: Zac Weatherford ; aukermanlu@gmail.com; yostmisty@gmail.com; teeny4position3@gmail.com; dnysoe@msn.com; marchandrdh@gmail.com; kyleanderson0097@gmail.com; tylerdieu@hotmail.com; Ryan Paulson ; Deb Hays

Subject: Water Treatment Facility and Wetland Technical Advisory Comments

[External Email]

Good Evening Everyone,

Columbia Conservation District would like to provide the technical comments from the advisory group established for assessing the Water Treatment Facility and Wetlands project for the City of Dayton. This comes to everyone at a late hour, due to the difficulties in compiling needed information.

We feel that this information is vital in moving forward with plans for the facility. There have been many questions asked in the recent weeks which we seek to address with the packet attached above.

The packet includes Columbia Conservation District Letter from the Board, Washington State Fish and Wildlife Conditional Use Permit Comments, Snake River Salmon Recovery Board Letter, Blue Mt. Land Trust Memo, Conf. Tribes of the Umatilla Conditional Use Permit Comments, Technical advisory Group Meeting Minutes for the months of January, February, March and April with no minutes provided for the March 22nd meeting, Floodplain maps and Anderson Perry Conceptual Drawings with noted concerns.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me.

Thank you,

Aneesha Dieu

District Manager

Columbia Conservation District

202 S. 2ND St Dayton, WA 99328

509.382.4273 ext. 4

districtmanager@ColumbiaCD.com

 

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