I attended the workshop on Oct. 15 regarding the wastewater treatment plant with the hope of garnering a better understanding of the issue. I left the meeting with more questions than answers, thanks to the many good issues raised by concerned citizens that I hadn't thought of or were unknown to me prior to the meeting. The situation is much more complicated than just a need to increase our treatment capacity.
One common thread of concern is the burden of cost. A commentor pointed out that 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. With an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent (2005), a large proportion of available jobs offering minimum-wage/low-wage and part-time employment, a sizable disabled population, 28 percent under 20 years old or elderly, the highest gas prices in the state, heating fuel prices constantly rising, rising rents and food costs, is it any wonder people are in a panic about such a sizeable increase in a monthly utility that's more or less mandatory? Sewer service isn't a luxury expense we can trim from the budget when times are hard. The concern of cost is not restricted to the impoverished or infirm. As one business owner tried to illustrate how the increased rate would adversely affect her small business, the council member snidely remarked that if the proposal didn't pass she wouldn't have to worry about her business...because she wouldn't have one. Fear mongering? Detachment? His comment left a palatable feeling of Us vs. Them.
According to the letter I received from the city, the need to expand our facility arises from the need for a better quality discharge into the ocean to comply with state standards. During the meeting I learned that another reason for this costly expansion is to accommodate another thousand new hookups, nearly double our current new hookup capacity. To put a finer point on it, we, the current residents of Crescent City, are expected to shoulder the burden of cost so wealthy developers can come in here and build neighborhoods for people who can't afford to live in them? While the need for affordable housing is a valid one, how many low to mid-income people can afford to move into one of those new houses behind Wal-mart? Are they being built to accommodate growth (newcomers)? The issue of growth was brought up several times during the meeting. How much more growth can a city of 1.8 square miles and a depressed economy accommodate without severely affecting the quality of life here? Apparently it's already affecting our sewer.
A few of the comments that I feel were not properly addressed or answered (other than witha tone of contempt) were in regard to alternative solutions, mainly touching on conservation. There are solutions individuals could employ that would reduce the amount of load on the system that I feel are not given proper credibility. A water displacement bag in the tank of every toilet and the use of grey water for yard watering may not solve the problem entirely but it would certainly help the overload issue. A city-wide campaign urging every citizen to use less when performing their daily household routines, like they do in drought affected areas, would further lessen the burden.
These are only two points among many discussed at the meeting, but space constraints prevent a mention of each one. I urge every person reading this to get informed on every aspect of this issue and attend the final hearing on Nov. 5. The impact of a $42.5 million debt (roughly half of the total asset value of Crescent City) could have devastating potential. We all need to step up and let our voices be heard and our votes be counted.