I may do a dead tree column on this, but these are some preliminary thoughts on the story I was working on for tomorrow’s paper.
We’ve had numerous stories in the paper about the major renovation of the city’s water system, which is old and creaky and leaks and breaks. One aspect of the work, and I don’t think it was secret, was building of a water tank and a new water line, with the tank going up by 36th Street’s trailhead and the line running down to the city reservoirs near 22nd Street. I know I saw a short article, when the location of the tank was switched to 36th Street. We’ve had numerous other stories on the work, the bonding, the rate hikes and so on.
After crews started working on that earlier this spring I started getting outraged calls from folk asking what was up. In every case I said “I think that’s that new tank they’re putting in.” Last week, after a friend who lives nearby called myhome phone and left an outraged message, I even called City Administrator John Patterson and said “Is that that new tank and stuff?”
And he said yes.
After my friend called, since she’s a smart well-read person and she was feeling that she needed more information, I figured the paper needed to do more, so I talked with Scott Schwebke, who normally covers city stuff, and he said it was fine with him if I took a story on his beat. I then started calling around and quickly setup interviews with the city engineer and public utilities manager, since they’re the ones running the show.
They were, I must say, very willing. I think they’ve been getting a lot of outraged calls as well.
What surprised me was, when I called Council Chair Amy Wicks for comment, since she is one of several who told me she was angry about the work. She said that she had not talked to either of those gentleman.
“They work for you,” I said. ”They work for the mayor too,” she said, and added that, anyway, she works during the day and so do they and just hadn’t been able to meet up.
And still, she was telling me stuff that is highly critical of the project.
That troubles me. Not to overly criticize Amy — I have no idea how busy her life is — but this is a city project and has been in the works for some time. Even if off hours, I bet she could make a call and the city engineer would find the time to give her an on-site briefing after dinner. She lives, and works, right nearby and, frankly, she controls his budget, so I bet he’d find the time.
As it is, I had to write the story the way it was told to me, with Amy saying she has concerns but hasn’t had time to go look with a city engineer to explain what’s going on but planned to ask at a council work session that night.
At the same time, I talked to Gib Wallace, the city’s trails guy, who is very excited about the work and says he is already building new trail. He had been showing the work to Councilwoman Caitlin Gochnour, he said, and told me she was happy with what she saw. No, I didn’t get a chance to call her.
I don’t like to see destruction any more than anyone else. My training, though, when I see something going on, is to pick up the phone and start asking questions. I also, perhaps more than some in today’s atmosphere, try to avoid assuming the worst of everyone, looking for hidden agendas and all that, and that goes for both Mayor Godfrey and Councilwoman Wicks who, I like to think, both want the best for Ogden before all else.
But that’s me, always the cockeyed optomist.