In another grand display of poor management and fiscal irresponsibility, Mayor Dan Coody has let the city stumble unprepared and without warning into another situation facing an additional $1 million per year cost overrun in expenses for biosludge disposal associated with his bungled wastewater project. Coody rushed from City Hall yesterday to avoid questions and left his Water and Sewer Director, David Jurgens, to break the surprise news to Chairman Kyle Cook and the Water and Sewer Committee. Jurgens estimates that any long-term solution could cost $8 million and would wipe out the Water and Sewer Improvement Project Funds.
Back in April 2006, Coody's Director of Operations who has been one of his top assistants since 2001, Gary Dumas, announced that he could save the city $300,000 a year by contracting with the troubled landfill in the Cherokee Nation. Coody thought he could get a cut rate and still protect the environment? Right. Earlier this year, Dumas learned that he didn't make the cut as a finalist for a city manager job in Fort Smith. Yesterday, we learned that Dumas is still looking for a job elsewhere and is a finalist for a position in Janesville, Wisconsin. We wish him luck.
Coody has known for years that there was a problem with the contract for dumping Fayetteville's sewer sludge in a landfill owned by the Cherokee Nation. Almost a year ago, former Northwest Arkansas Times reporter Adam Wallworth had a story quoting the operators that they were running out of disposal space. They were also facing $1 million in fines for unacceptable environmental practices, but Mayor Coody's notion of sustainability was more related to his political career than to the ecosystem or best management practices.
For years, other cities have successfully operated sustainable composting operations that have positive environmental results. Others have found biosludge to be an economical and environmentally sound source of energy to replace fossil fuels. Dan Coody just kept on dumping it in a risky landfill on the cheap. Now that landfill is closed, and we will be paying an additional $1 million a year to dump it somewhere else and keep a bad thing going.
Tomorrow, Mayor Coody will be holding the Second Grand Opening of the Westside Sewer Plant, celebrating and again denying that it came online three years behind schedule and $66 million over budget. He appears to be thinking that if he can get on the former Government Channel ten times next month and blame it on someone else, the media will buy his excuses and the people will forget the debacle. He could better spend our money and his time typing up a letter of resignation.