In this post, I’ll look at the first vendor presentation on the digester proposal to Whitewater’s Common Council.
(Every question in this series has a unique number, assigned chronologically based on when it was asked. All the questions from When Green Turns Brown can be found in the Question Bin. Today’s questions begin with No. 60.)
60. City Manager Clapper (Clapper) mentions that one of the vendors presenting, Trane, is working with Whitewater to evaluate energy efficiency as part of a separate project. What happened with Trane’s energy efficiency contract with Whitewater?
61. Wouldn’t how Whitewater’s energy efficiency contract with Trane progressed show (1) what Trane is like as a vendor and (2) how skillful city officials (particularly Clapper) are in evaluating and managing city projects?
62. Clapper mentions that city officials (full-time staff, presumably) and the vendors did not have time to draft an agreement before the 1.21.14 meeting, so the 1.21.14 meeting will be a presentation only (that is, there will be no request to vote on a contract). Does Clapper think that a presentation and vote on the same night without time for later reflection would have been a good practice, had the vendors and city staff produced timely a draft agreement?
63. If Clapper thinks that a presentation and vote on the same night would have been a good practice, then what does that say about the level of diligence his administration (full-time staff) should be required to meet?
64. Wastewater Superintendent Tim Reel (Reel) claims that Whitewater would produce energy by “bringing in and increasing our acceptance of different and variety [sic] of industrial wastes.” What kinds of industrial wastes – by Reel’s account there are different kinds and a variety – would he import into the city from other places?
65. How would Reel’s contention that the city would need to “increase our acceptance” of waste influence the current standards for waste processing at the plant?
66. Reel contends that there would be an energy savings, but he doesn’t say how much. Why not? By his own admission from 12.3.13, there have been multiple meetings (off-camera) by this time, with vendors and a waste hauler. Why no energy estimate, even a loose-fitting one?
67. Reel mentions that there is excess capacity at the city’s existing digesters, as he has previously (12.3.13). Using his own analogy of a digester as like a human digestion system (3.16.15 presentation to Whitewater School Board), if a person’s stomach is half-full, does that compel eating until one’s stomach can hold no more? Even if Reel contends that it does compel engorging oneself, does Reel believe that what one puts into one’s stomach – what foods (or in a digester’s case what wastes) doesn’t matter?
68. How does Reel estimate the value of an idle digester? That is, not as how much, but how he arrives at a particular figure? Did he, himself, produce a figure? If not, who did? What is the analysis underlying that dollar figure?
69. Reel contends that, on behalf of the city, he sent letters to 12 industrial waste providers to see if they would be willing to dump industrial-strength waste into Whitewater’s digester. To which providers did he send that letter? How did he arrive at that list of twelve names?
70. Reel claims that three companies expressed interest in dumping industrial-strength waste into Whitewater’s digester. Which three?
71. Reel claims that although three vendors have expressed interest without a commitment, the volumes that they could dump into Whitewater’s digester could “drive the project.” What would those volumes be? How many trucks would that require, on what schedule?
72. Reel introduces two sets of vendor representatives, three from Trane (“Rachel, Jeff, and Todd”) and two from Black & Veatch (“Steve and Paul”), all on a first-name basis. How well does Reel know them? How much time has he spent with them, particularly those from Trane (as Trane was at this time already in the city working on an ‘energy efficiency’ project)? How often has he met them, and in what settings?
73. Trane advocates a performance contract where the “design team and the construction team are one in the same,” over a traditional designer-contractor partnership. Trane’s representative contends that a performance contract approach means no details will be missed within a unified team. How does he think so (does he believe that one business formation over another assures infallibility)? Can he show that no performance contract has ever failed for want of a detail?
74. What risks can Trane guarantee?
75. Trane wants Whitewater to pay for a feasibility study. Isn’t that simply asking Whitewater to pay for Trane’s cost of a sales (feasibility) presentation? Shouldn’t Trane alone bear the risk of what it can and cannot do for Whitewater? How, if at all, is this different from a baker asking a potential customer to pay for an estimate of whether the baker can bake bread for a would-be patron? Shouldn’t that be a cost that the baker bears?
76. Where is the (completed) Trane study? Did Trane complete the study?
77. Trane contends that Trane would manage and Black & Veatch would build the project. Can Clapper show, himself – with concrete figures – that this performance contract approach with self-selected companies would be superior to a conventional bid process?
78. If Clapper can’t, himself, do so, then how is he fulfilling a duty to manage and protect the city’s financial interest? Does Clapper’s fiscal obligation to Whitewater merely involve relying on what private parties looking for municipal payment tell him?
79. Black & Veatch’s representative lists a project, by his own admission, ten times the size of a likely Whitewater project. How useful does the Black & Veatch representative think that an order-of-magnitude-larger project is to Whitewater? He says that’s the most similar project to Whitewater’s project that his company has. Has he nothing closer? Why not?
80. The Black & Veatch vendor contends that Whitewater might increase its waste by importation to handle in total up to four times (or even eight times) as much “high-strength” waste as it now produces locally.
81. Do Clapper and Reel think that importing into Whitewater multiple times as much waste as we produce locally will have no environmental impact? Why do they think that (that is, what environmental analysis have they done)?
82. Black & Veatch contends that they could “get the plant off the grid” and “sell some excess [power] in addition.” How would they know this, even before a city-paid feasibility study?
83. The Black & Veatch representative admits that among industrial wastes, there are “good wastes and bad wastes to receive.” Who will secure and assure, day in and day out, that Whitewater will receive only “good wastes”? Who will monitor that importation, and how will others see results that are accurate and reliable?
84. Reel mentions that he has a 1.29.14 meeting with a waste hauler. Which one? How did Reel learn of that hauler? Did they meet? Did Reel take notes for that meeting?
85. Black & Veatch’s representative states that “typically tipping fees [paid by those who dump waste into a location] will generate more revenue for the city than for example selling peak power back to the grid.” If so, isn’t this truly less an energy project than a waste dumping project?
86. Reel says that a conservative estimate might be “twenty thousand gallons” for a facility that “would be open 24/7.” How many trucks would that require?
87. Is a large flow of waste haulers’ trucks into Whitewater a reason for the business lobby’s interest in truck traffic in the city? Will each and every member of the business lobby personally stand by waste importation into Whitewater?
88. Why would a hauler as far as Fond du Lac (as a council member mentions apparently from notes) be interested in dumping in Whitewater? Will no one closer take that hauler’s waste? Why won’t anyone closer take it?
89. What does it say about one of Trane’s representatives that he cannot answer a question about the study’s initial cost, but instead relies on a council member to quote that figure to him? Does the vendor representative not know? Is he shy to mention a $70,000 initial cost?
89. Clapper mentions that Reel will be the one who will “ultimately answer” questions about the project. What is Reel’s educational and professional background?
90. Why would City Manager Clapper, as city manager, not assume ultimate responsibility for the information about this project?
Original Council Common Presentation, 1.21.14
Agenda http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/images/stories/agendas/common_council/2014/2014_1-21a__Complete_Council_Packet.pdf (link broken)
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