Members of the White Salmon City Council’s City Operations Committee have given new meaning to the phrase intergovernmental cooperation.
During the City Council’s Aug. 3 meeting, Councilor Adrian Bradford spoke for fellow councilor and committee member Mark Peppel when he proposed having discussions with the city of Bingen about consolidating management of water and wastewater services: In lieu of the interlocal agreements for water and wastewater services, White Salmon would take over the water works in both cities, and Bingen would assume full responsibility for the cities’ wastewater treatment system.
“One city would be in charge of one utility, and the other would be in charge of the other utility,” Bradford told fellow councilors Peppel, Clyde Knowles and Bob Landgren, and Mayor David Poucher. (Councilor Ricky Marx was absent.)
He added on behalf of the committee, “We feel strongly that this approach has benefits for both cities. There might still be the need for interlocal agreements (between the two municipalities), but they wouldn’t be as arduous as the current systems.”
A meeting between members of each city’s Operations Committee has been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 22, starting at 7 p.m. in the Fire Hall.
“We want to run the proposal by their committee members first and open the dialogue,” Peppel said.
The idea of creating separate management systems for water and wastewater, according to Bradford, was introduced by Peppel and developed into a proposal through discussions during City Operations Committee meetings.
“We’ve been working on it for about four months,” Peppel said of the water/wastewater proposal. “We want to run (the water works) like a business; that’s our plan. Whether or not it works out is a different story.”
Currently, each city administration is billing its customers for water and wastewater services. However, the intergovernmental agreement that enables White Salmon to sell water to Bingen has lapsed, and the contract under which Bingen provides sewage treatment for White Salmon will expire at the end of 2011.
Bradford said, given that context, the time was ripe to put the issues on the table for discussion, “to test the waters, see if Bingen would be interested in considering this approach.”
Pat Munyan, White Salmon’s city administrator and public works director, said Peppel’s proposal had been discussed several times in City Operations Committee meetings over the last year but never in a public setting. That changed Aug. 3 when Bradford laid out the committee’s reasoning for wanting to look at alternatives to the status quo.
“The wastewater treatment plant is in Bingen; they own it. We own a portion of the plant’s capacity,” Bradford said in his presentation to the City Council. As for the water, “With the Buck Creek project, we’ve created a reliable water source that we own. We’re no longer reliant on the wells that White Salmon, Bingen and the Port of Klickitat all own an interest in.”
The City Council consented to Bradford’s proposal to start talking with Bingen representatives at the committee level with the participation of each city’s administrative staff.
“It sounds good,” Munyan said of the idea of creating separate and distinct water and wastewater management entities, “but a lot of foot work needs to be completed to ensure that it’s feasible.”