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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 1, 2007)
City of Vernonia Embarks
on Long-Term Public Works Study
By Jim Tierney, Chair of the Vernonia Public Works Committee
During the last year, the City Council and our cur-
rent administration have made a number of im-
provements in how we make decisions about public
works projects. One example is the formation of
the Public Works Committee last spring. Another is
that we are working to help the City make its public
works decisions in context.
During the last two months, Dick Kline has been
discussing Vernonia’s public works infrastructure
with Dale Merrill of CIDA, a civil engineering
firm. Merrill and Mike Gilliland, a landscape archi-
tect who works with him, have been highly recom-
mended to the city as professionals who understand
the needs and constraints of small towns. Kline’s
goal is to work with CIDA to develop a workplan
for a small short-term engineering study that will
detail the condition of our existing infrastructure.
The study will include an outline of necessary im-
provements to our systems, the cost of those im-
provements, and data to help us set priorities. Once
we have the work plan and a cost estimate, we can
find a funding source and follow the necessary pro-
cess to hire an engineer.
We need the study to help us make good choices.
Most of you know that the city is under order from
the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
(DEQ) to make further improvements to our sewer
treatment system. The cost of these required im-
provements is estimated as high as $9 million. We
have recently applied for, and received, a five-year
extension on DEQ’s demand. Given the enormous
cost of the proposed sewer improvements, Kline
felt it essential that we fully understand all of our
needs before we start such an expensive project.
The Public Works Committee agrees that we need
the baseline data that the study will provide.
The study will be comprehensive. Obviously, the
sewer treatment system is on the list. The engineer
will also look at our water plant and distribution
system, our storm water collection and disposal sys-
tem, plus our streets and sidewalks. The study will
help your Public Works Committee do its job by
giving us baseline data in each of these areas. We
will use that data to develop improvement plans for
each of these systems. These plans will include:
- an inventory of our existing systems
- a comprehensive list of the improvements needed
over the next twenty to forty years
- the cost of those improvements
- a plan to pay for the improvements
Using this knowledge, we can help the administra-
tion and the City Council keep costs to ratepayers
and taxpayers as low as possible.
We hope to use the five-year delay to pare down
the enormous cost of the sewer project. We also
believe it’s an excellent idea to have a second set of
experts review the problem and the proposed solu-
tion -- similar to seeking a second doctor’s opinion.
This proposed study is just one example of the
improved public involvement and smart decision-
making that will serve all Vernonians well. As we
learn more, I will write additional articles about our
community’s public works systems, our ideas to im-
prove the city’s infrastructure, and how citizens can
weigh in on our choices.
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