The Publisher/Managing Editor of the Nisqually Valley News Keven Graves published my Letter to the Editor about Yelm Water Concerns "Boil." So, now the readers of the NVN have the same information as do readers of this blog. The letter I sent to the NVN is printed below unabridged.
Additionally, the NVN published an email I received on January 29 from Yelm City Administrator Shelley Badger addressing questions I sent to her on January 15 (in full at bottom) to follow-up after receiving no response from my presentation to the Yelm City Council on January 9, 2007 which is listed on the City Council's Minutes, then click MINUTES, then January 9, 2007.
From the NVN publishing my letter and Ms. Badger's answers, we can no ascertain the following:
1. The City of Yelm has no contract, pro-rata or otherwise with the Thurston Highlands Associates for the SW Aquifer study. An agreement with the City of Yelm granting access to the property is not a binding contract telling the citizens of Yelm what share Thurston Highlands associates will pay for the $550,003 to date. Further, nothing binds Thurston Highlands Associates to pay anything, until after their EIS is underway.
2. So, the City is putting up the total amount of the money for the aquifer part of Thurston Highlands Associates EIS, all along saying it does not use taxpayer monies to fund a private for-profit development.
Yet, the City of Yelm and the NVN still have not addressed these questions posed:
Is this preferential treatment?
Would the City of Yelm do that for you, me or any other developer?
Will Thurston Highlands Associates pay the City of Yelm interest on its pro-rata share of the SW Aquifer Study for taxpayer monies fronted to do the study?
Where is the accountabiliity between the City of Yelm and Thurston Highlands Associates for this aquifer study if no contract currently exists between these two entities saying that will be determined once the EIS is under way?
Would you operate YOUR business affairs this way; i.e. undertake work on behalf of another without a written contract and decide once the work is underway & under what conditions the payment schedule will be made?
3. Based on the question Ms. Badger answered about a budget for joint mitigaiton, there is no money budgeted for joint mitigation with the cities of Olympia & Lacey & the Tribe. Joint mitigation with those jurisdictions will have to be done at some point, so we now know that $550,003 has been spent to date on Yelm alone. One would have to believe joint mitigation is going to require some large dollar outlay, as well.
What say you?
Is this preferential treatment?
The Letter I wrote to the NVN printed there on February 2. This is the unabridged version:
While I applaud your paper’s coverage of the water issues in your January 19th story titled “Yelm Water Concerns Reach Boil,” I felt many questions I posed to the Yelm City Council on January 9th becoming the basis for your story were not addressed. While you may consider me “a snarky gadfly” that “nips at the heels of the movers and shakers” & starts to look “like a whiner” for seeking answers from city officials on important matters, I say speaking up and questioning our leaders as a City of Yelm property owner/ taxpayer is our responsibility as citizens.
Does the City of Yelm have a contract with Thurston Highlands’ owners to develop water rights? Never answered, yet the implication is it does not, quoting Ms. Badger; “If a good water source is found on the Thurston Highlands site, developers will have to pay their fair share, which won't be determined until the Environmental Impact Statement is complete later this year.”
HUMMM! That’s interesting because Yelm’s City Council has stated public funds will not be used in private for-profit developments.
- Ms. Badger’s viewpoint must obviously be this is not an issue because she says, “It's after the EIS ‘when it will be determined how much they have to pay.’" So, why IS the city using public money to front a developer’s EIS?
Is this not preferential treatment?
Would the city fund an EIS for you, me or any other developer? Then determine payment AFTER the EIS?
- Will the public be repaid interest on loaning money for Thurston Highlands’ EIS?
- Obviously not quoting Ms. Badger, “It's after the EIS ‘when it will be determined how much they have to pay.’" If there is no contract now for how much they have to pay, what obligates Thurston Highlands’ developers to pay anything for this study in the future?
- “But, said Badger, and Yelm Mayor Ron Harding, pursuit of water from that location would be taking place regardless of who owns the property and what they plan to do with it.” This is private property that has had various owners during the last decade. What if there is no agreement reached with the current owners, what will the city do then; seize the land and water rights as the City of Olympia did with the brewery last year? And who will pay Thurston Highlands’ pro-rata share for the study then?
- “What limits and conditions have the developers placed on the city for the SW Aquifer Project?” Where is the accountability between Thurston Highlands’ developers and the City of Yelm if there is no contract?
- How do downstream users of the SW Aquifer like the Cities of Olympia & Lacey & the Tribe feel about Yelm’s treated waste-water recharging the aquifer from where they derive their drinking water, with the volume of treated waste-water required to be replaced back into the aquifer?
- Let’s see, the City of Yelm is nearing a water emergency with so much approved development with one of the city’s three wells unusable, quoting the NVN, “A third well is available for emergencies, but the water supply must be treated in a special fashion because it is "under the influence of surface water," said Tim Peterson, Yelm Public Works director.”
What/where were the surface conditions that caused this well to be unusable and how does the city keep approving developments with 1/3 of its wells out of service? Isn’t this well’s aquifer just downstream from Wal-Mart’s surface conditions of daily traffic pollution dripping oil & fuel runoff from their proposed volume of vehicles?
Perhaps you think these questions are posed just to “stir up the pot” to make “myself look relevant, like the myriad of conspiracy theorists you’ll find on the Internet…” That may be your view, however I learned a lot about this city & its politics as a candidate for Mayor and have raised issues and asked tough questions ever since, providing education, knowledge and facts for this area’s citizens to discern for themselves. You even reported December 15, 2006 Councilman Bob Isom’s concern the almost $600,000 funded would not be all, forcing council “to continue to sink money into this project.” “It’s ultimately up to the reader to reach their conclusion based on ALL of the facts.”
"A time comes when silence is betrayal," quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967.
What say your readers?
Stephen R. Klein
Read for yourself the January 29 email response to my January 15 email to Ms. Badger.
Shelley Badger wrote [January 29]:
Steve, see below for responses to your questions. Thank you for your patience in my reply. Shelly
Shelly Badger, Yelm City Administrator
Steve Klein wrote [January 15]:
I would like to get answers to a few of the questions I posed
last week at the City Council session:
1. Does the City of Yelm have a contract with Thurston Highlands for the SW Aquifer Project?
The City of Yelm has an agreement with Thurston Highlands Associates allowing access to the property for the SW Yelm aquifer study.
2. Does the City of Yelm have a pro-rata contract with Thurston Highlands for the SW Aquifer Project?
As stated previously in City staff reports to the City Council, this will be determined from the Thurston Highlands impact analysis completed during the Environmental Impact Statement and stated as a condition of the Conceptual Master Plan.
3. If, so, what is the pro-rata share of each party?
See response to question #2.
4. If no contract exists, how and when will that be determined?
See response to question #2. The EIS and Conceptual Master Plan conditions are anticipated to be completed in late 2007.
And other questions that I have:
5. What is the City of Yelm's budget for water for the next 10 years (i.e. water rights, studies)?
The City's water budget is comprised of operation/maintenance of the present system AND dollars for capital improvements necessary to support the city and its urban growth area. The 2007 budget for O & M is $1,304,057; annual debt service is $296,643; capital improvements (which includes projects, water rights investigation and water rights acquisition) $716,712; capital reserve $564,788. We anticipate that this budget will grow annually at the rate of 3-5% range in the next 5-year period.
Every 6 years, the City of Yelm completes a Comprehensive Water Plan which identifies projects needed for the upcoming 6-year period based on the City's expected needs. This improvement program, as well as anticipated O & M needs, is used to set monthly water rates and connection fees to allow the City to undertake the necessary work for the water utility. The current Comprehensive Water Plan is up for renewal in 2008.
6. How much money are you allowed to spend on the current SW Aquifer Study?
The current contract with Golder is authorized at $550,003.
7. On future studies?
The nature and need for future studies is based on what we discover as we advance thru our technical studies. Based on this factual information, there may be a need for additional technical work to understand how the withdrawal of water from the SW Yelm aquifer impacts the area. At that time, a budget for this work would be determined.
8. How is that allotted?
The City sets aside a portion of each new water hookup for capital improvements. These improvements include both facilities that are needed as Yelm grows and dollars necessary to obtain new water rights.
9. How much money has been budgeted for the joint mitigation to come with the City of Olympia, City of Lacey & the Nisqually Tribe?
Until all the cities complete their individual impact analysis and mitigation plans, it is difficult to understand fully where joint mitigation opportunities exist. As this information becomes available, the watershed partners will discuss where joint mitigation makes sense and each jurisdiction's appropriate share.
Thanks so much for your time.