This post is the third in a series of 6 describing the 10 week decision process used to provide a recommendation on a water treatment solution. The first post was an overview of the 5 meeting process.
Because the field trip the first meeting took longer than expected and the presentation from the technical expert went long we did not have time for committee conversation and committee direction on how they wanted to approach the decision process.
One City Councilor described the committee challenge as determining if the additional benefits of the membrane filtration system was worth the increased cost (about double). With that as a guide we decided that the focus of this meeting would be to better understand how system costs would affect water rates, as well as a more detailed understanding of the two solutions.
To prepare we met with city staff and the technical expert determine what would be presented.
How to understand costs?
One of the problems with public works projects is that the overall price tag is a large number. One solution is $15 million while the other is $30 million. What the committee needed to understand is what is the cost to the consumers – residents and commercial consumers (beer making is big in Bend and requires a lot of water).
The water utility financial presentation helped the committee understand how the system costs will affect water rates. The more expensive solution would likely add $5 a month to a residents water bill and 7.5 cents to a barrel of beer. The less expensive solution would have no affect on rates due to capital investment reserves.
How to understand the systems?
The technical presentation provided a deeper description of the components of the two treatment solutions.
Where do we go from here?
At the end of the meeting we had time summarize what the committee was charged to do, and find out what the committee members needed to know to make a decision. It was clear that the risk of wildfire in the water shed needed much more exploration.
Observations and Assessments
In the past 8 years the water treatment decision was made (membrane filtration) and revisited twice, this being the second such revisit. In fact dollars had been spent on the design of the membrane filtration system.
The understandable bias of the city public works staff and the technical consultant for the membrane filtration was clearly evident.
Some on the committee voiced there frustration: “Why are we here, if it’s already decided? and “I’m not here to rubber stamp a decision that was already made.”
There was a lot of time spent telling why the decision must be membrane filtration. Not a great way to understand each other.
My sense of the meeting was that the city thought it went OK because the information was presented mostly ‘to script’ (the need for scripting became a struggle for Greg and I going forward). The committee members seemed frustrated but willing to come back for the next meeting.
I personally didn’t see how we would come to any conclusion in the next 2 months. I adjusted my goal from a great recommendation to some sort of recommendation and the committee members still on speaking terms.
With that in mind we decided we would plunge into the wildfire risk at the next meeting and really experience the Mess.