Post 12 in a series. When Green Turns Brown is an examination of a small town’s digester-energy project, in which Whitewater, Wisconsin would import other cities’ waste, claiming that the result would be both profitable and green.
Recap: On 11.5.13, city officials in Whitewater met privately with three construction or engineering vendors (Trane, Black & Veatch, Donohue) and at least one major waste-hauler to discuss importing waste from other cities into Whitewater for a digester energy project. On 12.3.13, Whitewater’s Wastewater Superintendent Reel and City Manager Clapper presented a brief slideshow about the project. On 1.21.14, Trane and Black & Veatch presented to Whitewater’s Common Council on the project. On 2.4.14, the City of Whitewater, at the enthusiastic recommendation of Reel and Clapper, agreed to fund Trane’s ‘study’ on the feasibility of the project, in an amount up to $150,000. On 2.20.14, Trane presented on a separate proposal for an energy-savings contract for Whitewater (proposals to save money by reducing energy consumption at city buildings). On 3.4.14, Trane returned to discuss the energy-savings plan.
Trane’s role in the energy-savings proposal is material and relevant to its work on a digester plan requiring waste importation into Whitewater: it’s the same vendor, including some of the same vendor-representatives, advancing a seven-figure plan to the same city officials, as in the digester plan. (Later, we’ll see that Whitewater will switch to another vendor, Donohue, but in March 2014, Trane was the vendor for more than one city project.) The quality of the Trane’s work, and the quality of municipal diligence in evaluating Trane’s work, is on display here.
(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. 119.)
119. In September 2013, six months before this meeting, the City of Whitewater proposed a letter of intent for an energy-savings agreement. Half a year later, there’s still uncertainty about the scope of the project. Why is that?
120. The Trane proposal discussed at this meeting includes approximately $750,000 in work apart from energy-savings efforts. City Manager Clapper (Clapper) says that the additional work was for a ‘broader scope’ than mere energy conservation. Wouldn’t a ‘broader scope’ be a justification for countless additional public expenditures?
121. In response to a question about that ‘broader scope,’ Clapper responds that “if there’s any concern about any the items [the additional $750,000] to exhaust those concerns or remove them from the list.” Why doesn’t Clapper think that it’s his role, as the publicly-paid city manager of Whitewater, to apply his own judgment to remove unnecessary items?
122. Does Clapper believe that his role as the publicly-paid city manager of Whitewater is merely to present in full what vendors want to sell to Whitewater?
123. Alternatively, does Clapper believe that each and every one of Trane’s proposals has equal merit (that is, is he unable or unwilling to distinguish priorities between a vendor’s various items for sale)?
124. Listening to Rachel’s sales presentation in this clip, with references to ‘holistic’ needs, etc., would anyone have confidence in the specifics of her work? Why can’t (or won’t) she supply a direct answer to Trane’s expertise even when pressed multiple times?
125. How is it possible that the vendor’s representatives know less about the dates for regulatory compliance times than a councilmember who, like all councilmembers, serves only part-time on Whitewater’s Common Council?
126. Did City Manager Clapper review Trane’s presentation prior to delivery at this 3.4.14 meeting? If he did, was he confident of Trane’s work? If he didn’t, then why didn’t he?
127. As a policy matter, why would a full-time manager (City Manager Clapper) ask fewer questions, or no questions, of a project than elected representatives with full-time duties elsewhere?
Council Discussion, 3.4.14 (Trane)
WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN: Mondays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.