Start Yer Spinning Sewer Engines! Zoom! Zoom!
Ah, and now the Spin Machine starts. In the Feb 18 Tribune “Viewpoint,” Bill Garfinkel, former head of the TAC (information that was, interestingly left off the piece.) submitted what first appeared to be a sort of “balanced” overview of the information homeowners will be considering in the upcoming County “Survey,” (Due next week?) And I use the word “appears,” because it’s actually an endorsement for gravity superficially appearing as some sort of vaguely neutral evaluation. (Hmmm, maybe that’s the reason Bill’s association with the TAC was left off? Didn’t want anyone to think this was some sort of official endorsement, but merely a personal point of view? Good move.)
Unfortunately, Bill’s piece is only the first salvo in the upcoming “campaign” to subtly (and not so subtly) influence which collection system the authors wish the community to “buy” in this upcoming "survey." Get ready for more campaigning – coordinated letters to the editor touting gravity or STEP, other viewpoints pretending to neutrality that are nonetheless loaded down with “spin” of one sort or the other. And, of course, look for the Tribune to do their usual job of not-so-subtly “forgetting” key facts and information in order to do whatever it is the County wants done.
The problem with what the County is about to do with the up coming survey is that asking homeowners to “pick” a collection system now is premature because, so far as I know, neither systems have been evaluated via competitive proposals with real-world, maximum prices, including OM&R BEFORE the homeowners can begin to make an intelligent choice.
The importance of such a real-world evaluation and pricing, including OM&R is that – as the TAC report and Bill’s Viewpoint made clear – “Actual costs for the collection system are unknown until the county receives bids. Engineering estimates indicate the range of costs for the two systems overlap with STEP at the low end of the range. . . .” And in that “overlap,” one can hide all sorts of fudged numbers making appearances misleading.
In addition, Bill notes that engineering estimates don’t include the varying hook-up costs, and goes on to imply that a STEP system would “disturb an area approximately 250 square feet . . .” (for the tank, & etc.) thereby implying there’d be added-on huge costs without noting that, if memory serves, the Ripley Report/Proposal, for example, included the tank installation costs into it’s total project costs, and that total included an averaged-out “landscaping repair” rebate cost per homeowner. Since there have been no real-time proposals, how do we know whether a STEP proposal, for example, would also include that installation cost as part of the plan (as Ripley's plan did)? That's critical information before chosing anything, don't you think?
Plus, without real-time long-term OM&R cost-outs, the homeowner can't figure out that even with an initial higher restore/repair hook up for his property, it may be that STEP still comes out cheaper for long term costs. But without that information, the homeowner can't really make a good determination.
Which means that full life cycle costs, energy costs, sludge disposal costs, RWQCB “leak” fines, & etc. are actually important BEFORE anyone "votes" for anything. In short, the real devil is STILL in the details and without those, I fear that this community is about to be spun into another Hobson’s Choice. Again.
I understand. It's not easy because the problem of truthfully and fully giving the community the information it needs to make a wise choice is a daunting one since every “fact” requires about 70 pages of footnotes and 1,000 attached PDF files and charts to ‘splain it correctly since each “fact” trails all sorts of IF and WHEREAS and HOWEVER and ON THE OTHER HAND.
So, what to do? Well, my suggestion is to do – for real – what the TAC attempted in theory: Competitive real-time proposals with guaranteed caps on prices and a full evaluation of OM&R for BOTH systems. THEN, see what floats to the top.
Is that really too much to ask for? I don’t think so.