Councilor Jodie Barram said she was willing to reevaluate the filtration options, while Scott Ramsay said he still backs the resolution he voted for last March “as it stands.”
Chudowsky said he “struggled” with what position to take, but after his review and staff’s answers to a list of questions he submitted, “I think we’re stuck with the current pipeline configuration.”
“Given the water rights issues around the (19)50s pipe, I had staff investigate the option of a smaller, narrower pipe (than planned), to kind of replicate the current system, as much as possible,” he said. But he learned that would end up costing $1.5 million more than the current pipe, “so that’s out for me.”
Clinton said he believed he heard four councilors willing to consider changes, “interested in having a more careful process. … It’s been going along in a way that probably could have been done better, in my opinion.” But he added, “We are where we are here. A large amount of money has been spent. Nevertheless, I think we need to put everything on the table and take a look at it, and get more assistance from the community.”
But Capell said he saw three, not four, in that mode – Clinton, Russell and Knight. The others, he said, don’t appear to be calling for a stop on the water pipeline project, only wanting to review treatment and hydro options.
“I didn’t hear a consensus of the council saying to go back and revisit the whole thing,” he said.
“That was my opinion,” Clinton said.
City Attorney Mary Winters said the council is scheduled at its next meeting in two weeks to hear the state “remand” of the city’s Public Facilities Plan, which she laid out as a simple process of providing more information on the water project. But she said that timetable is crucial to get a permit approved by the Forest Service and meet the construction window at Skyliners Road.
“We don’t have the luxury of delaying – we lose opportunities,” she warned.
And that’s the sentiment that prevailed as the meeting ended.
Knight read a prepared statement, urging spending ratepayer funds as prudently as possible, but not wanting to waste the "sunk costs," so laid out a list of suggestions, including to return or offer for resale the pipe materials.
Ramsay responded that the current pipe runs at full capacity to prevent collapse, so to wait 25 to 30 years and use the "decrepit pipe" would be wrong, and allow for a possible burst or spill in the forest.
But Knight said he'd seen only scant anecdotal evidence of serious problems with the current pipe: "I don't see evidence to me that we need to replace the entire pipe right now."
Russell said she believed there are still "incremental options" to not spend so much money up front, But Capell stood his ground and said to wait would just mean higher costs down the road, and "another year lost."
Consultant Tom Hickmann said, "Based on the condition of the existing pipes and ... threat of failure, they probably would not approve us using the existing alignment." The current permit allows the city to replace the two current 24-inch pipes, but decades ago, a repair project was abandoned as unworkable due to technical concerns.
"Even if we tried to go in today and follow the permit we have, they wouldn't allow it," Hickmann said. "They would prefer us out of the existing alignment. ... They would prefer us under the roadway and sharing the existing easement."
Clinton noted that while the project is on hold due to an appeal, more appeals could happen, whatever new direction the city goes.
Knight’s motion to open, but continue the Feb. 20 hearing while the whole project is reviewed died for a lack of a second.
Ramsay made a motion, seconded by Capell, to continue with the current plans, knowing the council will revisit one section of last year’s resolution involving the water filtration and hydroelectric aspects.
Clinton said he'd like to reopen the pipeline issue in hopes of resolving the appeals, while Russell said she wanted to reach out to the community at least one more time.
But after all that discussion, Barram, Ramsay, Capell and Chudowsky voted in favor, while Clinton joined Knight and Russell in voting no.
"So much for kumbaya," said Capell with a smile after the first (but no doubt far from last) 4-3 vote of the new council.
"Well, you wanted a lively debate," Russell replied in lighthearted fashion.
"And we still respect each other," Barram said, echoing another Capell plea.
The council wrapped up its work shortly before 11 p.m.