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Sewage plant negotiations continue
5/4/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
Haggling continues with State Health Department officials over interim sewage plant improvements, Bayfield town and sewer district manager Justin Clifton reported to the town board Tuesday night.
He said the officials agreed some new conditions they put in a recent counter-proposal “were not well thought out”.. see story in last week’s Times. But he said, “I still think some of the conditions are too strict, a set-up for failure.”
He continued, “Our proposal was solution-oriented. We’ll be better off with the proposed improvements. These other conditions reflect an enforcement mentality instead of a solution mentality. … We’re making some concessions in the proposal that I’m not that comfortable with, but if it’s take it or leave it…”
The state officials wanted a sign-off from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Clifton reported he had that – a letter from Tribal Chairman Clement Frost that was sent to the state Tuesday.
The letter is very positive and supportive, Clifton said. “It reiterates something a lot of people don’t realize, that this is a cooperative effort, and it’s not one entity against the other.”
Clifton said he hopes the letter will make a difference, but he’s not sure it will.
“The tribe mentioned some of the same issues and said the (state) priorities are mis-placed. … We are in constant violation of (organic) loading coming in. Most of the time the plant can handle it. Our focus is the effluent. The improvements are on the back end. The state is just looking at the (plant’s operating) permit, what’s coming in.”
He noted, as he has before, that some of the interim improvements are happening in any case, such as sludge removal from the second and third lagoons, and requiring high load commercial customers to get their organic loading down to allowable limits.
But other interim improvements, such as a $315,000 sand filter to improve effluent quality, will not happen without state assurances that the proposal is acceptable. “We’re ready to move on it the day we get a ‘yes,’” he said.
Clifton repeated complaints of how long it is taking state bureaucrats to act on this. “We’ll keep working. I’ve tried my hardest…” he said.
Trustee Daryl Yost commented, “If another month goes by, we may have to change the way we respond. Two weeks even.”
Clifton agreed. “The $500,000 of (interim) improvements is based on revenue coming in now” from being able to sell sewer taps, he said. “The plan was that all these improvements could be done before even one house is occupied.”
Trustee Tom Au added, “Another four weeks and there won’t be any revenue coming in over the summer, and probably the rest of the year.”
Clifton noted the sanitation district is at the stage of closing on a state loan to replace the current lagoons with a new state-of-the-art plant.
“Our lender, who is another state agency, has been inquiring what is the status of the (compliance) proposal,” he said. “They want to know we can re-pay the loan. The tribe helped select these (interim) improvements, but the state wanted a formal response (from them). Now they have it. There’s no reason to hold it up.”