Letter: County needs ‘collaboration, not scapegoating’

To the editor:

The article by Sara Clifford published in the Aug. 13, 2019 edition of The Democrat, “No resolution yet to Helmsburg sewer board questions,” described a classic example of what can go wrong when the focus of a major project is not on what is best for the county.

Recently, the Helmsburg Regional Sewer District had to increase rates to their customers to $92.50. This increase, along with a plan from the Brown County RSD that initially ignored Helmsburg, led to a situation that exacerbated tensions and contributed to the scapegoating of two members of the Helmsburg RSD.

The Helmsburg and Brown County RSDs submitted applications and recently received a grant for a regionalization study. This grant provided through the Regionalization Assistance Program (RAP) provides a total of $30,000 that will result in a study that will help identify the best solutions for the region. This is a needed and long overdue study and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Ethel Morgan, from Hometown Engineering LLC, was selected to complete the study.

At their Aug. 13 board meeting, the Brown County RSD identified that they have spent over $170,000 of the $270,000 provided by the county council. They have yet to acquire land and have supported and applied pressure that included the threat of eminent domain to acquire land deeded to parks and recreation. They also acknowledged significant delays with their Bean Blossom sewer project.

The status of this project reinforces the problems that are created when you force a solution before you build community support by first identifying the scope and extent of the problems.

The Brown County RSD has applied for a Ready Community grant that may result in a $100,000 planning grant for a wastewater infrastructure strategic plan. If this grant is received, it may also help to identify the best wastewater treatment options for the county, but only “if” the scope of this study includes validating the needs based on facts and not speculation, opinions and anecdotes.

Benjamin Franklin remarked that “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Collaboration, along with plans that identify the scope and extent of the problems, leads to better solutions, less conflict, and more effective use of taxpayer money.

Should elected officials direct a delay in any further expenditure of taxpayer funds until the RAP study is completed? Would a further delay on spending be warranted pending the status on the application and completion of the wastewater infrastructure strategic plan?

Tim J. Clark, Brown County

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