Ogden Trails being destroyed?

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.

Share
This entry was posted in Blogging the Rambler. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Ogden Trails being destroyed?

  1. dan s. says:

    Charlie,

    The planned new tank at the top of 27th Street is being located higher than would be needed to serve only existing customers. The city’s engineering consultant told me personally that the location was chosen under the assumption that it should also serve new development in the foothills. This is where the city accidentally built a new access road across Forest Service land. Now they’re going back and asking permission from the Forest Service.

    My knowledge of the 36th Street work is less direct, but I’m very suspicious of the elevation of the planned new tanks and their size. Also, we know for a fact that the mayor wants to see new condominium developments above the top of 36th Street. The latest plans are posted on Weber County Forum.

    I can assure you that getting this kind of detailed information from city officials is not easy. I repeatedly asked Mr. Frisbee how the site of the 27th Street tank was chosen, and he either dodged my question or didn’t understand it. However, with some persistence, I convinced him to let me talk to the engineering consultant. I learned about the condominiums through a GRAMA request for the plans, which took more than three weeks.

    It’s my understanding that the mayor strongly discourages his staff from talking privately with city council members. Instead everything is supposed to go through the proper channels, and that makes communication even more difficult.

  2. Charles Trentelman says:

    hmmm. The plans for the condos are posted on the wcforum?

    better go look again. The plans I see there are very old, very tentative, and probably not representing any plans except, the writer says, as an indication of the way the city is thinking, which in my experience is not a safe assumption.

    if city council members let the mayor keep them from talking to city officials then the city council member needs to push harder on the city employee who is, i repeat, an employee of the council.

    MY POINT is that Amy didn’t even claim she tried.

  3. dan s. says:

    Charlie, what you say about the city council is not true. State law prohibits a city council member from giving any direct orders to an administrative staff member. Separation of powers and all that.

    I agree that the golf course plans posted on Weber County Forum are very tentative. Nevertheless it is the mayor’s intent to have condos built above the top of 36th Street. The specific layout will, of course, continue to be revised and eventually the whole proposal will probably die as they realize it’s not practical. But it’s the administration’s current intent, and therefore we can assume that the water systems are being designed to accommodate that kind of development.

  4. dan s. says:

    Here’s the citation for that state law: Utah Code 10-3b-203(1)(c)(iii)

    http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE10/htm/10_03b020300.htm

    “The council … may not … publicly or privately give orders to a subordinate of the mayor.”

  5. Charles Trentelman says:

    city council members may not be able to give orders, but I refuse to believe they can’t call up and ask what’s going on.

    As to the mayor’s intent: Intent is intent, but I have a lovely map here produced by the Utah Geological Survey showing new fewer than 3 earthquake fault lines running through that area. These are the same fault lines that made developing the golf course ground impractical. Perhaps that map could be run alongside yours showing where the condos are proposed? You won’t even need a FOI request. The WSU geology department helped produce it.

  6. Amy Wicks says:

    Charlie,

    Alarmed at what was going on above 36th and thinking the Council as a whole (and the public) needed to be aware at what was going on, Council staff was directed to rearrange our work session schedule to allow for a meeting with the head of the water department, city engineer and public services manager. This took place on March 19th and was partially attended by Scott Schwebke. I think this is a much better option than requesting a private meeting with city staff after hours, which is discouraged, as Dan S. has mentioned before.
    The Council approved a capital improvement plan for all of the water projects that we bonded for last year. The tank project at the top of 36th Street was not in the plan, it was listed as a different project closer to Shadow Valley. On 3/19/09 administration presented an engineering study dated July 2008 that indicates moving the storage tanks to 36th is a preferred option. This information was never provided to the Council until the requested meeting, not even when the projects were being discussed and the capital improvement plan for the water projects went through the Council’s approval process last year.

    What came about at the meeting (and was not clearly reported by Schwebke):
    The water tank project at 36th Street was not in the capital improvement plan approved by the Council, work has been occurring on this project using funds approved for the tank project closer to Shadow Valley. The capital improvement plan needs to be amended and will be discussed at our next scheduled council meeting. Administration apologized profusely at the meeting for working on a project not approved by the Council. We were well aware of the pipe project- not the tanks.

    With plans floating around targeting the area for development of our publicly owned open space I still have concerns.

  7. dan s. says:

    Charlie,

    You’re absolutely right about the condo area being crossed by fault lines. That’s one reason why I don’t think it’ll ever happen. But that won’t stop the city from wasting a lot of money to pave the way for the proposed development–and to provide adequate water pressure for it.

    Incidentally, I’m quite familiar with that USGS map. When it was first published, my colleague Adolph Yonkee gave me an autographed copy! Still, the fault locations are often conjectural. You have to dig trenches to determine their exact locations, and sometimes to determine if they’re really there at all. If you want to learn more about this, just ask Adolph.

    The maps of the condo plans already show the (provisional) faults as faint orange lines.

  8. Charles Trentelman says:

    so you are saying the city will build water capacity for condos it knows full well can’t be built?

    Or perhaps, the work is so that everyone on ogden’s east bench can have adequate pressure and if that happens to also allow for a condo building or two, well, so much the better, but I think you really need to show that there is excess capacity there, at extra cost, specifically for the condos.

  9. Charles Trentelman says:

    and my sincere thanks to amy wicks for chiming in.

  10. dan s. says:

    Charlie,

    So the burden of proof is on me, is it? Why don’t you help a little by interviewing the city’s engineering consultant. Ask why the capacity has to be so much more than it is at present, and ask why a tank is needed so much higher than the existing tanks. If they tell you something about needing more pressure over by 27th Street, remind them that there’s already another tank planned for the foothills over there. Oh, and be sure to ask whether, in the course of doing their work, they were ever told by the city to try to ensure adequate water service for future development in the area around the existing tanks.

  11. Charles Trentelman says:

    adequate water service around the existing tanks? I’m sure they were — for Weber State, which is always exapanding, and for other growth and development.

    Ogden hasn’t added significantly to its water system in the 30 years I’ve lived here. An added 5 million gallons in capacity strikes me as prudent, considering our growing industrial and population sectors. A condo, or club house, or whatever, is beside the greater point.

  12. dan s. says:

    Presumably, when the existing tanks were put in (30 years ago?), they were designed to accommodate some future growth of WSU and whatever nearby neighborhoods weren’t already built out. Perhaps it wasn’t quite enough, but it must be close or we would have heard about major problems already, right?

    Now the residential areas are built out. WSU will continue to grow, but it’s hardly fair to ask residential water users to pay for that. So I’m still unclear on why we’re investing in such a big capacity increase at this time.

    Remember, we’re only talking about growth along the benches here. You don’t need a tank up on the bench to provide pressure to the lower parts of the city, and even a 5-million-gallon tank is nothing compared to the capacity of the big reservoirs at 23rd Street.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>