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City of Yelm voter Brian Hess publishes Interim Mayor Foster-approved Q & A –
Foster blames Public Works personnel for council’s $5M well vote,
Denounces DOE on Yelm H2O rights: “arbitrary and obviously inaccurate estimate.”
Foster NOT a leader for Yelm’s future, did no ‘due diligence’ to protect taxpayers.


Story highlights:
* Foster reveals his lack of understanding key issues in public online Q & A:
* Blames stellar-credentialed former Public Works Dir. in supplying “bad” info,
* Blames DOE for Yelm water rights “not based on any particular science…,”
* Erroneously says the Community Center was built in-part with a $1M bond the public approved,
yet the public was not consulted about this tack-on to the $1M Library Bond,
* Approved a $5M well before Supreme Court water rights case was settled in securing them,
saying about council: “we were under the assumption that our water rights were intact.”
* Board members of a co. or non-profit would be relieved of duty with such irresponsible answers.
* Foster has clearly demonstrated he is unsuitable to be Mayor of Yelm.

– City of Yelm resident/voter Brian Hess publishes Interim Mayor Foster-approved Q & A –
Excerpts from Facebook post used with permission –
Blogger fact-checks are below each of Foster’s answers.

From Brian Hess:
“My concern with [Interim] Mayor Foster is about Yelm’s infrastructure, in particular water and sewer and wanted to know why he voted the way he did as a city council member on previous budgets. I also asked about the community center and why he voted for it when twice local residents voted against it. Here are my questions and the Mayor’s responses, used with his permission.”

* Question from Hess:
“In the 1990s, Yelm had one of the best in the nation water reclamation plants and now it has deteriorated and will cost us the residents of Yelm millions to not only bring it back up to standards, but also expand it to cover the growth that has occurred in the city. Reference the above, why was this allowed to happen on your watch as a city council member?”

“Why did it never occur to you, a former Marine and former Firefighter-Paramedic to question how could infrastructure be maintained with little maintenance as well as support the growth that had occurred within the city?”

* Answer from Foster:
“City Council members are typically not experts in infrastructure, nor are they expected to be. They also don’t necessarily know much about law enforcement, community development, information technologies, etc.. What they rely on for making informed decisions is the research and presentations given to them by the department heads responsible for those various services provided by the City. If the information is bad, the decisions can also be bad. Not until 3 years ago, when we hired the right people to lead the Public Works dept. and the WTF, did we start to hear the truth about the layers of issues facing that facility.”

* Blogger fact-check of Foster response:
1. This did not answer Hess’s question above, “Why did it never occur to you, a former Marine and former Firefighter-Paramedic…?

However, Foster is correct in that city councils are not experts at anything, however they have a fiduciary responsibility to serve the public’s interests and go to the experts, if not their city’s department heads. The question for Foster then is why did HE not question Yelm’s experts or seek qualified opinions from elsewhere?

2. Foster is incorrect!
The city of Yelm hired a stellar-credentialed Public Works Director not 3 years ago, rather 4 1/3 years ago [June 2013] in Ryan Johnstone, a professional engineer who worked with the city often during his almost 7 years for Parametrix prior to the Yelm post. Johnstone was conversant with the city’s downtown well upgrade and water reclamation facility projects due to his Parametrix work on those facilities. Johnstone immediately educated the council regularly with professionalism and clarity. The former mayor and councils consistently reigned-in Johnstone’s recommendations to the point that this outstanding public servant resigned for a job elsewhere. Councils then had not performed ‘due diligence’ by going to Public Works and obtaining any on-site briefings from the director. I did and warned about this issue in a Nisqually Valley News (NVN) Letter to the Editor published June 3, 2016.

Further, in the early 1990s, the Dept. of Ecology (DOE) required Yelm to build the Water Treatment Facility (WTF) as a reuse facility because the city was discharging too much phosphorus into the Nisqually River. Yelm certainly did not build the WTF (as Foster calls the plant) to be a good citizen. And as far as maintenance goes, the city is required to hire and use certified plant operators as part of their operating permit.

* Question from Hess:
“There is also a $5 million dollar well that has yet to be turned on, which we as residents and users of the water are paying for. My question for you is why did you vote for a $5 million dollar well, that was not guaranteed?

* Answer from Foster:
“Water rights. Somewhere in history, good folks at DOE [Dept. of Ecology] decided that Yelm would only ever need a certain volume of water to take care of the then expected growth in the area. Not based on any particular science, it was an arbitrary and obviously inaccurate estimate.”

“We applied for additional water rights to meet those requirements and allow Yelm to accommodate the many who wished to move here. Those water rights were granted, but then the DOE was sued by “Foster, et al” (no relation), and that suit, though at first lost, was then won by appeal to the Supreme Court. The “Foster Decision” is now a statewide concern. So we’re kinda famous for that, infamous rather. Flash forward to present day. We were confident in the early days of our efforts to provide water to our citizens that our application would be approved and all would go according to plan. Hence, the votes to approve the new well. We were making good decisions based on solid information. There is no fault to be had there. The problem was when the DOE had to yank our new water rights because of that SC decision. We are going to re-apply for those same water rights using a different modeling system that will demonstrate NO impact to the aforementioned systems, and will require no mitigation. When we are successful, the new well will be put into service. Mind you, if our other wells were to fail, the DOE would allow us to transfer our pumping authority to the new well, so it is not without use eventually.”

* Blogger fact-check of Foster response:
Foster is incorrect!
The Dept. of Ecology (DOE) uses precise science and research. For Foster to say DOE water rights are “not based on any particular science, it was an arbitrary and obviously inaccurate estimate” is preposterous and false! DOE is a data-driven organization based on decades of scientific work and the science of water budgeting is based on the best data possible. DOE’s water rights decisions for Yelm are not arbitrary and capricious, rather based on available water, senior water rights, in-stream uses, and other measures made to budget available water. Where is Foster going on this line of commentary?

* Question from Hess:
“I would like to know your view on is about responsible government leadership and conducting business according to the will of the people. This is about our community center, that is not being utilized as planned and is costing the residents of Yelm thousands, if not millions of dollars. Twice the community center bond was put to public vote and twice it failed to pass. I understand that there were grants acquired and would no longer be available, but that is a poor reason to go against the will of the people and build a community center that the average citizen of Yelm cannot afford to utilize for a simple birthday, family gathering, or other such events.”

* Answer from Foster:
The CC [Community Center] was built with 1 million from a bond the people approved specifically for a library and park improvements, plus 1.5 million provided by the State of Washington from its Capital Budget over two years. It is a great facility used by the public for public events, such as the 2 town halls and several community engagement forums I have conducted there since becoming Mayor.”

* Blogger fact-check of Foster response:
Foster is incorrect!
The Yelm City Council added an additional $1,000,000 to the $1 million library bond for a community center without public input , as reported here in June 2012.

* Question from Hess:
Also, should we be concerned with our current wells failing? I ask this because of your statement “if our other wells were to fail, the DOE would allow us to transfer our pumping authority to the new well”. Would it not be cheaper than $5 million to maintain and properly upkeep the current wells?

* Answer from Foster:
“In regards to the litigation, yes the City was named in the suit that was primarily aimed at the DOE, but we have spent over $200,000 on those legal defenses. I have the finance director pulling a more detailed accounting, but some of the funds come from the sewer enterprise fund and some from the general fund. Again, remember please that at the time we drilled that well, we were under the assumption that our water rights were intact. No one anticipated what the “Foster Decision” would do to small communities like Yelm across the state. The cloudy picture we on council received over the years was the result of a combination of lack of knowledge and experience in personnel at the plant, all of whom are gone now, and just a lack of information provided to the council for consideration during the budget process. I will not say that any of this was done with malicious intent, rather, I believe that those in the previous administration didn’t ask enough difficult questions and didn’t involve the council as much as they should have, earlier in the process.”

Blaming others in this manner is a false narrative: “the previous administration didn’t ask enough difficult questions and didn’t involve the council as much as they should have, earlier in the process.” They briefed the councils, yet the council on which Foster sat asked few questions and performed no proper ‘due diligence,’ their fiduciary responsibility, something this blogger has constantly addressed.

* Blogger fact-check of Foster response:
Foster is incorrect!
For Foster and his fellow councilors to have been “under the assumption that our water rights were intact” because the “council received over the years was the result of a combination of lack of knowledge and experience in personnel at the plant,” is totally false. If they had those assumptions, were they Board members of a company or a non-profit, they would have been relieved of duty. This is a totally irresponsible statement for Foster to make. And blaming personnel at public works is the sure sign of a poor leader.

On August 10, 2015, the day prior to the council’s vote on approving a $5 million well, I questioned the prudence of this decision:
“Wouldn’t the prudent thing be to hold-off on this vote until after the WA Supreme Court decision, which may limit Yelm’s ability to draw water from this well?
What would you do if you were on the Yelm City Council?”

Leaders in charge of protecting the public’s interests should be prudent with taxpayer monies, especially to not approve a $5 million well project without having first secured water rights in-hand.

– Bottom Line:
Foster’s answers now further demonstrate he is inappropriate to serve as Mayor of Yelm.
Click here to read the Hess-Foster exchange in-full.

Posted by Steve on October 30, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

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