Aug 13, 2019. BCD. GUEST OPINION: What you can learn at the county’s Septic Summit By Clint Studabaker
CAUTION: A long post in response to the Guest Opinion article. I highly recommend attendance at this educational event. Given that approximately 90% of residences are on septic systems, education should be a recurring event in the county. I think we all want a healthy and safe environment as well as leaders that can credibly define the scope and extent of a problem before forcing solutions. However ….
Mr. Studabaker references results from a NON-statistically based “survey” conducted in 2008 with more information gathered in 2009 and then used in the Vision 2020 “Plan.” He then uses this non-statistically valid information to infer that there is a need and a “problem” that “could” present a health issue – an association that is misleading. For instance, the past two Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) Board presidents stated publically that there was no evidence of a documented need e.g., failed septic systems, in the Bean Blossom area. Another myth has been in regard to the quality of the water in Cordry and Sweetwater Lakes. Water samples indicate that there is not a problem and the conservancy’s plan for managing septic systems is proving effective.
Note also the vision 2020 “plan” was a private-sector plan supported by the community foundation and the Brown County Partnership. The partnership was dissolved (2016?) due to lack of participation. The 2020 plan was not a county comprehensive plan that has to meet state requirements, requires public meetings, approval by the county commissioners and approval by the county council for any associated project funding.
Of SIGNIFICANT IMPORTANCE is that major changes are being made and proposed for wastewater treatment strategies (sewers and septics) in Brown County that will affect almost ALL residents to include those that are buying and selling homes. Great if you are a realtor, developer or in the septic system business. Not so great if you are at the low to moderate-income level and/or expect the least intrusion from your government.
Mr. Studabaker is at the forefront of the septic/sewer initiatives – he is a member and primary leader of the BCRSD Board that is proposing a wastewater treatment plant for Bean Blossom. He is also a member of the committee that worked on the proposed new septic ordinance and has written a grant proposal for a Wastewater Infrastructure Strategic Plan for the county.
The Bean Blossom sewer project is now projected to be in operation approximately 1-2 years over the initial projection and is likely over budget. The BCRSD has yet to acquire land and the latest strategy is/has been trying to acquire land (under threat of eminent domain) deeded to Parks and Recreation. Does the public support this idea? Eminent domain is the tool that can that be used to acquire “private” land “IF” a project is considered to be an important public good. Nashville used eminent domain to acquire the land for their sewer plant.
I continue to be concerned over the lack of due diligence and transparency on the Bean Blossom sewer project. Due diligence includes defining the scope and extent of the problems before proposing solutions. On the issue of transparency, I had to submit a formal complaint with the State to obtain public records from the BCRSD board. I recently made a follow-up complaint with the public access counselor who is working on the issue which involves a simple request – a review of the list that contains the names of the customers. The BCRSD board also promised a website in June of 2018 that would be used to keep the citizens updated on the ongoing status of the project – the website has yet to be developed.
Proposed Septic System Ordinance. A review of the proposed septic ordinance indicates that similar to the last two attempts, this revision should also be rejected by the public.
Mr. Studabaker has an impressive private sector resume. However, when you are using taxpayer dollars to fund projects, expectations and standards of performance are much higher in the public sector. Standards include transparency, comprehensive planning, due diligence, and earning the trust, respect, and confidence of the community. Major mistakes in the private sector can lead to firings, lawsuits, and bankruptcies. Similar mistakes in the public sector often result in higher taxes, less revenue for projects with a valid need and a citizenry that lacks trust in local government.
I hope you can attend the education sessions on septic systems and will also stay informed on the sewer/septic issues. These issues will have a significant impact on our quality of life and the cost of living in Brown County.
Tim J. Clark
Co-Administrator Facebook Group – Brown County Matters
More Information – context and details
- Regional Sewer Board – Bean Blossom Sewer Project – For the Record
- Proposed New Septic Ordinance – For the Record.
- Letter to Editor – Brown County Democrat. Collaboration and Conflict – County Sewer Boards Letter submitted Aug 14, 2019, to the Brown County Democrat for the Aug 21, 2019 edition in response to the article by Sara Clifford published in the Aug 13, 2019 edition of the Democrat “No resolution yet to Helmsburg sewer board questions.” … The article described a classic example of what can go wrong when the focus of a major project is not on what is best for the county.
- RAP Grant – Regionalization Study – Helmsburg and Brown County RSDs
- Septic System Education – Sept 3 Summit