There is a disturbing precedent being set in our wonderful community. Inaccurate information concerning the Riverfront Reclamation Plant is being circulated and a portion of its source material is a personal email between the Cottonwood city manager and the Cottonwood mayor. How was it possible that this email exchange has become public fodder?
As a council member, I would like to know. I am perfectly aware that as a public official, all my emails may be requested at any time, however there is a certain procedure to follow for a public records request. I was comfortable in knowing that any email in which I communicate concerns or am very frank in my discussions were to remain between myself and the mayor/council member receiving the email. And if they did feel it was necessary to provide that email to someone else, especially for public consumption, they would have the courtesy of contacting me first to either ask or state they were going to use it.
First let’s address the content of the information. It focused on the Riverfront Reclamation Plant. Contrary to what has been published, the location of the new facility had absolutely nothing to do with the ability to inject water into the aquifer but rather, the ability to use the reclaimed water on the city’s largest park (Riverfront) as well as the need to eliminate the immediate need to replace force-mains from Lift Station 3 to 4, which alone could have cost the city between $5 million to $6 million.
This would also provide a cumulative savings as approximately 300,000 gallons of effluent are being pumped uphill from Station 3 that soon can be treated at the new site with reclaimed water to be used to irrigate, saving the use of ditch and well water. This was established back in the year 2009 at the July 14th work session.
Injecting the reclaimed water back into the aquifer was brought before the council in 2012. It came as an after-thought when ADEQ informed the council and staff we should not return the reclaimed water to the Verde River because of the negative perception by the public, as well as it will be “too clean” as it won’t contain necessary microbes to maintain the balance of the river’s environment.
The fact that the test well drilled over 600-feet deep went artesian, meaning there is so much water in the aquifer it can’t accept any more without consequences (i.e. fracking,) was such an unlikely scenario it was not foreseen. We live in a desert. However, hind sight being 20/20, it would have definitely been advantageous to drill first but that would not have changed the location of the reclamation facility, again, contrary to the information being circulated in the community.
Further, the intimation that the city will be tearing up roads not initially planned is also incorrect. Constructing water lines to the Kids Park (near the Fairgrounds) was already planned, in order to use the reclaimed water at the park as well as potentially provide it to other users in the area. And the fact that Mingus Avenue is currently under construction for other purposes makes this an ideal time to place reclaimed lines for future use.
Lastly, any failure in the city is a failure of the entire Cottonwood City Council. We are at the top of the chain of authority. As a member of the Cottonwood City Council, Mayor Elinski approved the location and construction of this facility and has approved the many changes along the way.
To be unwilling to recognize the authority and responsibility when it is convenient is a shirking of the responsibility of the office of mayor, and reflects poorly on the entire council. Particularly when in that same email Mayor Elinski stated “…I did not want to belabor this in public but I want some sort of explanation…” and then the issue is subsequently belabored in a public forum.
When I make a mistake and I’ve made my share, I do not attempt to shift blame but stand up and own it, then move forward to find solutions. That is what a good leader does.
Let’s stop all these less-than-truthful fault-finding retaliatory accusations and get back to the business of taking care of our citizens.
Kyla Allen is a member of the Cottonwood City Council
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