Editorial: Taking the plunge

The City Council made the right choice Monday when it instructed staff to proceed with plans for a single new water treatment plant supplying 7.5 million gallons a day (mgd).
The previous plan was to build a 2.5 mgd plant and a 2.6 mgd reservoir. The thinking was to supplement the new plant with water from the existing plant as necessary. Since then, the city has connected to the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix intertie, providing an emergency source of water.
Public Works Director Paula Brown, who returned last year to take over her previous position with the city, made it one of her first tasks to re-evaluate that 2012 plan. She served as public works director from 1997 to 2008 before leaving to continue her service in the active Naval Reserve. She retired as a rear admiral in 2016.
“We fell in love with our plan,” Brown told a City Council study session last fall, “and that’s what we used to say in Iraq, ‘Don’t fall in love with your plan,’ because you’ll chase the wrong decision.”
It makes no sense to operate two treatment plants, Brown says. The city could rehabilitate the existing plant and make it through the next 20 years, but it couldn’t be expanded beyond that because of its location, and it’s vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding. Building a new plant after 20 years would be more expensive than building a 7.5 mgd plant now.
It’s still expensive, but thanks to Brown, the city isn’t chasing the wrong decision.

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