Published in the print and online editions of the Nisqually Valley News (NVN) Aug. 3 & 4 respectively:
– “Yelm Mayor Foster Responsible for Messed-Up Water/Sewer System”
Kudos to Nisqually Valley News reporter Andrew Kollar for taking on the Public Works issue and Publisher/Editor Michael Wagar in allowing Kollar’s in-depth report. [This was in response to the NVN’s July 27th story:
“Yelm Water Reclamation Facility Back Running”
“Down Six Weeks: Deferred Maintenance to Blame for High Ammonia Levels”]
Time and time again, former Yelm Councilor and now Mayor JW Foster voted to defer maintenance costs on Public Works projects and rarely asked any questions about the long-term effects of doing such. Current estimated expenses are greatly increased than if done properly years ago.
Deferring maintenance after the 2008 economic downturn was one way former Yelm Mayor Ron Harding kept from raising taxes prior to his 2009 re-election, and then again in 2013, amid a lack of grant opportunities. And Harding’s councilors were complicit by their silence and their votes. Employee morale issues and spending cuts to departments’ staffing led to city hall employees leaving and unionizing, while deferred maintenance costs have led to a projected $15 million to $24 million estimate just to modernize Public Works up to today’s needs, not even adding for future growth.
Newly elected councilors in 2015, Molly Carmody, Tad Stillwell and Joe DePinto, have all raised this issue, and Carmody recently expressed her frustration at a Council Study Session this has not been communicated with the public. All of this is now set against a framework of the budget process overdue to begin and now the finance director was announced to be leaving, with the city administrator now acting finance director, too.
These decisions lay at Foster’s door. Tough words? Yes. Though someone has to bring this into the light of public scrutiny. The NVN’s Kollar has opened the door for this public conversation to begin. Unfortunately, the city was not ahead of the curve in presenting their message to the public.
This city cannot solve the Public Works issues by employing the same mindset that created the problems to begin with.
– Editor’s note:
I am thrilled Interim Mayor Foster is holding a 2nd Economic Summit on August 15th, however he can conduct all of these summits he wants, yet if he doesn’t address Yelm’s Public Works infrastructure breakdown issues head-on, and the fact that Yelm’s allocated water rights are virtually fully used, economic summits mean nothing. Without a stable city water/sewer system and water, there are no additional opportunities to attract businesses here.