SC water a community event, see charts at city hall

Shady Cove is certainly a tantalizing city! Truly, in just about the most literal sense: Tantalus was a Greek king who was allowed to drink the nectar of the gods. He abused this privilege by stealing the drink and sharing it with his buddies. As punishment he was condemned to the Underworld, where he stood in fresh water that receded whenever he tried to drink it. From this we get the word “tantalize”. If that particular myth doesn’t parallel the current events in Shady Cove, nothing does.

In a continuing effort to capture that elusive receding water for now and for the future, the city held a special workshop on Jan. 12 in the banquet room of Twio Pines. The workshop began with a presentation from Kennedy/Jenks, the engineering firm who is following up on the Water Master Plan efforts begun by HGE. The presentation was titled “What to Know and Expect in Designing a Large Municipal Project”; and covered topics from understanding the impact on the community to system elements, costs, selecting a contractor and all points in between. There were 11 points in all and three folks from Kennedy/Jenks, Brian Murphy, Gordon Munro and Andrew de Boer, took the reins for various sections. The charts and graphics used in the presentation will be on display at City Hall for folks who weren’t able to attend or those who want another look at some of the details.

Though lots of high level information was covered, the core of the presentation was the emphasis that if this system is to go from theory to reality; it will be a community event. To that end the highlight of the workshop was Q and A between Kennedy/Jenks, Mayor Ron Holthusen and the 54 folks in attendance.

Themes of concern and familiar queries dominated this portion of the meeting with the odd technical question in between. One example of a technical question; how will the water be transported to the “other side” of the river? For now that is an unknown. The most cost effective way would be to run a line under the bridge, but that solution has questions of its own; would ODOT allow that? Is the bridge strong enough for that? Solid answers to most of the technical questions will have to wait for the design phase – should that phase ever come.

One question  posed more than once was why does the city think citizens will possibly vote for a water system now when they have voted no on it repeatedly in the past? The answer to that is layered: if the city hopes to have a growing future, they will need to walk away from their dependence on that aforementioned receding water source, wells. With interest rates super low, now is the time to proceed with an undertaking like this. It may seem spendy now, but future interest rates in better financial times will make it out of reach. The big hope the city has is that with proper and aggressive education and outreach the community will pull together and decide that a citywide system will provide a solid future for everyone.

How does the city plan to bring this education/outreach to life? Queried one citizen, noting that though well attended the workshop fell decidedly short of reaching all citizens. The mayor advised they are brainstorming on several fronts; more town hall meetings, a “water only” website, radio coverage, flyers, newsletters and any and everything else they can come up with. If you have ideas, please share them with city hall.

Other oft asked questions included: Will I have to cap my well? No, folks can keep wells for irrigation. Can’t we get a system for fire suppression only? and Does everyone have to tie in to the system? Each had the same answer; No, because funding for such a system is granted for potable, citywide systems only. It really is a case of all or nothing.

A new question that doesn’t yet have an answer was; What about all the private systems in existence? Will they be bought out? Tied in? Left out? Torn out? Murphy advised this was not covered in the Master Plan update and would be an issue tackled in the design phase..

The official meeting wound down at the two hour mark with Kennedy/Jenks staff staying to answer questions one on one.
The next step is the education and outreach leading to the November election where the vote will be to proceed or not to proceed.

An antonym for “tantalize” is “turn off” and indeed City Hall certainly feels it’s time to do just that, turn off the city’s reliance on wells and turn toward a more stable, reliable water source. A source that may seem out of reach; but is attainable if in the words of one citizen attending the workshop “People stop thinking about ‘my well’ and start thinking as a community.”
By Christy Pitto
Of the Independent


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