Here we sit as a nation, watching as the unfathomable meltdown of our financial system threatens to play out before our eyes. Sure people have warned this could happen, but they were always pushed aside as crazies.
US Representative Barney Frank said in 2003 that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the mortgage giants, were strong, and that naysayers were Chicken Littles crying the sky is falling. And besides, he said, if Freddie and Fannie fail, our government would never bail them out. Fast forward five years and the once unthinkable has now happened. Never say never.
But let's get local. Our city's wastewater treatment plant is right next to the 17 acres NIC will buy for the Ed Corridor. The purchase is a "done deal", according to Trustee Mic Armon, who spoke those words at the forum last Tuesday. Their Master Plan predicts student population will double and add more commercial and housing nearby.
During the forum, citizen Dan Gookin asked why the wastewater plant was not factored into the appraisal price of the land. He cited an EPA report "worst case scenario" for our CdA treatment plant. It shows that currently up to 11,000 people could be seriously affected by even a partial leak of toxic chemicals at the plant. Our wastewater plant stores a large amount chlorine and sulfur dioxide, both of serious concern.
We all agree that this possibility is quite unlikely. The treatment plant is well run and in great shape. No argument there. But it does involve humans and problems are always possible. I won't go into security details but there are reasons the EPA requires these reports.
Cities such as Boise, Post Falls and communities across the nation have switched their wastewater plants to an ultraviolet system of treatment. These changes allow the plants to safely cohabit with nearby populations. But this type of retooling costs serious money.
When the EPA's risk summary came up at the corridor forum, Mayor Bloem had an opportunity to explain but said nothing. And city administrator Wendy Gabriel simply praised our current system.
Have our city's leaders put economic development ahead of public safety? What about NIC and the Fort Grounds--do they have an effective evacuation plan? We all know it takes a long time to clear traffic after the 4th of July fireworks downtown. Can you imagine people in a panic?
Let's not shove these life-safety issues to the side, as Councilman Mike Kennedy did at the forum Tuesday. He called Mr. Gookin's information from the EPA "wildly alarmist", but offered no explanation or action beyond supporting the corridor plan.
So, think it could never happen here? Hold onto your mortgages, people, and never say never.
Response to Harrison Urban Renewal's guest column: My information was correct. Any quotes I attributed to Harrison Councilman Riberich were taken directly from the letter he sent to the citizens. The proposed shoe-stringing law changes never even got out of committee last year. And the money directed to any urban renewal agency is under the agency's control until the district is closed, it is not part of the city's budget. The main point of my column, which you seemed to have missed, was that the people of Harrison should not rush this important decision, in spite of Mr. Riberich's urging. They should take the time to study, discuss and make the right decision for their entire community.