About that letter

Before me, I have the unsigned letter referenced in Thursday’s story announcing the resignation of this community’s assistant city manager.

I could have published it, but I chose not to.

There are several reasons for my decision, the first being that this newspaper routinely doesn’t publish unsigned letters. Yes, the letter I am talking about was submitted to all the city council and to the mayor. In fact, it was the mayor himself who forwarded a copy to me. So it is public record.

Still, I chose not to publish it.

The second reason I chose not to publish it is its intent. The writer(s) whoever he or she or they are, suggest names of three existing city workers who would be preferable choices over the now-departing assistant city manager.

In case you didn’t read Thursday’s story, here’s the short version: Assistant City Manager Biridiana Bishop has taken a new job; she was the logical interim to head the city staff as we once again lose a city manager, this time Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez, whose resignation is effective in January. He is headed to a job in Texas.

The letter-writer(s) make it clear that he or she or they would prefer to see other existing staff elevated to the permanent position of city manager over Bishop.

There is nothing wrong with those suggestions.

But here’s what I think: If you want to have a voice in any matter, stand up and put a name to it. When you don’t, the focus becomes more about who said it than what is being said.

It’s very much like wondering in whose back pocket a politician lives when unidentified money supports their candidacy. Admit it, you wonder who is buttering the bread.

The expression of opinions on the extreme local level is no different.

I’ll provide you with an example.

This town is faced with paying for an inevitable $78 million wastewater treatment plant. We have no choice. It’s mandated by established law.

Just this week we were reminded that another estimated $21.5 million will be spent over five years; it’s in the five-year capital plan for our electrical utility.

And we’re staring down the barrel of a new water treatment plant as well. Estimated cost: $20.75 million.

Despite this, we’re pushing ahead with a nearly half-million-dollar splash pad for East Twin Park that would be of service perhaps a quarter of every calendar year and add as much as $70,000 in expense to the annual city budget in a time of ongoing drought.

We don’t have that kind of extra money laying around.

Yes, we are receiving donations. But unless someone steps up to cover the annual expense of maintaining a splash pad, in addition to covering the entire cost of installing it, the decision to build a splash pad in Webster City looks like this: It will benefit a very few, but its expense will rest on everyone in this community.

At a time when we are facing the above-mentioned mammoth infrastructure projects.

We must do the infrastructure; not doing it is what got us to the $78 million price tag on the wastewater project. Had we jumped on it sooner, when it was looming and we knew it, its cost could have been half what we are now facing. But we didn’t and here we stand.

Our water plant and electrical utility needs might be delayed by a couple of years, according to Mayor John Hawkins. That would give the city time to set aside a few million in preparation and maintain its credit rating to support borrowing more money. Still, those expenditures are inevitable, and the project costs will most likely increase with every tick of the clock.

That leaves us with decisions referenced earlier this year in the Hinson Report which, boiling that thing down, sounds like this: Tighten your belt.

By going ahead with the splash pad, we’re choosing to ignore that advice.

Saying this publicly, and putting my name to it, makes me a turd in the punchbowl.

See how it’s done?

Jane Curtis is interim editor of the Daily Freeman-Journal.


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