Everyone is well aware of Dan Coody's $66 million cost overrun sewer plant debacle. It would be hard not to know about it, since Dan had two ribbon cuttings and an invitation only barbeque paid for by the consultants, vendors, and engineering firms that were well paid by public funds. Then we were inundated with constant reruns on Coody Channel 16 for weeks.
Today the taxpayers got a bill for $176,011 that will come from increasing our water and sewer rates. A Washington County Circuit Court jury awarded that amount to Jeanny Romine for inverse condemnation of her home. By ignoring the problem and allowing raw sewage to run acros her property for seven years, Dan and his staff have landed us in another fine mess -- and an expensive one. By the time legal fees are totalled, we're looking at close to a quarter of a million dollars down the drain, so to speak.
Leaking raw sewage poured into Romine's yard for years resulting in mold, stench, structural damage to her house and other problems. The raw sewage that was spilling onto Romine's lawn continued to run into the city’s storm drain system and eventually into Scull Creek, a stream that flows through Wilson Park and along the city's new trail system. Wouldn't it have been wise for the city to fix the problem to stop the water pollution, instead of ignoring it for seven years until 2005?
Romine first reported the problem to the city in 1998. Instead of fixing the problem, city officials said it wasn't their problem if raw sewage from two neighbors was running downhill on her property, In 2004, when KNWA television was preparing to run a news story about the problem, Mayor Dan Coody tried to talk the reporter out of airing the story and called Romine "an eccentric" and said he did not think the story had much merit. The jury disagreed.
Things need to change in the way city officials respond to citizens. They need to start listening and doing the right thing, thinking more about how to fix problems instead of trying to deny responsibility.