I read with interest the recent article about the INRCOG study for the feasibility of certain cities connecting to and sharing the Waterloo waste water treatment facility.
During my time as mayor of Elk Run Heights both myself and former Raymond mayor Monte Johnson undertook this project, and working with former Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark, Bob Bamsey, Larry Smith and others spent a significant amount of time to study regionalization for our three cities over a period of two years.
While I have not read the INRCOG study, what we learned from our meetings without question validated that regionalization of treating waste water is indeed feasible and without question should be a priority.
Our conversations with Waterloo, done in conjunction with an engineering study done of our shared treatment plant in Elk Run Heights with Raymond, combined with the financing and debt cost analysis clearly indicated the long-term benefits for regionalization for Elk Run and Raymond and would no doubt be realized by all the other cities in the study.
Our focus during our meetings was to develop a framework for the same issues raised in the INRCOG study. Areas of establishment of equitable costs, monitoring of flow volumes, assurances of infrastructure integrity and maintenance schedules for connecting cities were concerns of all parties and were successfully worked through.
While the solutions to these issues may seem difficult, they need not be. One of the issues is how would connecting cities pay for any upgrades to Waterloo to meet compliance for treatment.
That issue can be solved by monitoring and recording the flow volume from each city and comparing that to the annualized flow volume Waterloo treats for its own residents. By establishing a percentage difference between what each city contributes to the Waterloo flow volume, annualized that percentage then could be used for each connecting city to determine any capital cost contributions would be.
Cost equity of treatment cost will require all parties to both recognize and accept two realities: Those cities that regionalize with Waterloo will see an increase in their residential costs, offset by reductions in water treatment costs from eliminating plant operations, and that Waterloo should not see this as an opportunity to generate a large cash flow.
This is an opportunity to establish a framework where cities can share not only treatment of waste water but create an agreeable cost schedule to allow connecting cities access to equipment they may not have today, thereby reducing their internal operational costs. The connecting cities can work to set up an agreement for support of sharing of employees for afterhours and emergency service calls, with established rate schedules.
In our discussions all parties recognized that by regionalizing we can develop economies of scale and over the long term drive down the costs for treating waste water. The connecting cities can remove smaller treatment plants and much of the associated budgetary operational costs as well as the regulatory compliance costs.
Discussion could include establishing a utilities board so each city has some input into understanding the compliance requirements for Waterloo today and into the future.
Such a utilities board would then assure all parties understand and report their inflow and infiltration maintenance plans to insure the collection system integrity and report and review their flow data so annualized usage and costs are discussed as a group.
The additional reasons for the cities in this study to regionalize are too numerous to list, and the reasons not to regionalize are none. Every mayor and council member for the cities in this study cite their desire to hold the line on spending, seek opportunities to work with other cities wherever possible and to move their cities forward, and regionalization of waste water treatment is an opportunity to do just that.
So now is the time for everyone, in every city, to set aside the territorial politics, keep an open mind, set aside any fears of loss of control on costs and pull up a chair to the table and start the process to make this happen.