A list of questions, updated as new ones arise, from When Green Turns Brown. Find this post, and you’ll have found all the questions from the entire series as they’re added .
(Every question in this series has a unique number, assigned consecutively based on when it was asked. All the questions from When Green Turns Brown can be found here.)
From the 12.3.13 Digester Presentation (https://vimeo.com/126793651) and (http://www.freewhitewater.com/uploads/120313_Digester%20Importation%20Discussion.pdf):
1. Whitewater’s Wastewater Superintendent Tim Reel (Reel) mentions surveys [of agricultural interest] for a 2004 proposal for a public-private partnership digester proposal that “never came to fruition.” Does the City of Whitewater have those surveys? Why didn’t that plan come to fruition?
2. Reel mentions a 2010-2011 project with “Green Energy Partners” (known in Whitewater as Green Energy Holdings). Why does Reel say the project was from 2010-2011, when Council actually voted in closed session in June 2012 (with – by municipal accounts – about nine months of behind the scenes work prior)? Does Reel have the dates wrong, or were private conversations going on for a longer period?
3. Reel describes a proposal from Green Energy Partners, rather than Green Energy Holdings, a distinction that, to my knowledge, no one in city government has made. Did Reel always know that these projects from Northern Concrete Construction (NCC) used different names? Did then city manager Brunner and then asst. city manager Clapper also know that NCC used multiple business names in various target cities?
4. If either Reel or others knew that NCC used different names in different cities, “as they were known financially,” then what do they think those financial reasons are?
5. Reel mentions that GEH rented two suites at the Innovation Center. Why doesn’t he mention that the bills were unpaid, and that GEH stiffed the city for rent and furniture costs?
6. What does the selection of the defaulting GEH say about the actual business acumen of Messrs. Brunner, Clapper, Reel, and the Whitewater Community Development Authority?
7. When Reel says that this [waste importation] is a project “after-the-fact,” “separate,” “and standalone” of other wastewater projects, what does that say about the importance of the project? If it’s not integral, but in fact superfluous, what burden of proof should a waste importation project meet?
8. Reel mentions an 11.5.13 meeting (four actually) with stakeholders for the project. Who attended that meeting? Who invited them? Were notes taken?
9. Specifically, who was the liquid waste hauler at the 11.5.13 meeting? Who invited that hauler? Was that hauler previously known to anyone in the city or CDA?
10. Reel mentions a discussion of liquid waste stream volumes took place at the 11.5.13 meeting. Who mentioned that volume? What was that volume?
11. Reel says that digesters are becoming “more commonplace” because one reads as much in the newspapers. What data reliably show what Reel alleges, apart from an unspecific claim about newspapers?
12. Reels says Whitewater is a convenient location for potential waste haulers to dump waste. Which waste haulers, from where, and what kind of waste? Where do they dump now?
13. Reel mentions an agreement with Trane about an energy-savings performance contract. How did that project go?
14. Reel says a waste importation program would not require a rate increase (would have no net cost). Does he still contend as much?
15. At this time (12.3.13), Reel contends Trane would guarantee savings. Does he still contend that Trane, or any other vendor, would guarantee a result or pay the city in compensation for under-performance for waste importation?
16. What’s Trane’s relationship to the digester, or even the city, now?
17. Reel mentions Black & Veatch (B&V) as a possible subcontractor to Trane. Are they still involved? Reel invited B&V to participate. What’s Reel’s relationship, if any, to B&V? How did he learn about them?
18. Why does it seem to impress Reel that B&V would have someone connected to performance contacts?
19. What is the availability and diversity of outside waste to be imported to Whitewater?
20. Reel mentions that despite possible corporate guarantees, the City of Whitewater would be responsible for finding and securing waste to be imported to Whitewater. If Whitewater has to secure waste from other cities, and would be responsible for any failure to secure, how comprehensive is a corporate guarantee for energy performance?
21. Reel mentions other places that use digesters. Why does he think they are like Whitewater’s situation? Are they like Whitewater? Why doesn’t he show how they are alike, if they truly are?
22. What’s high-strength waste?
23. Why does Reel think engineering firms want a deal with Whitewater? He says it’s because they see viability in a project, but these firms don’t guarantee availability of supply.
24. City Manager Clapper mentions that corporations guarantee savings, but Reel says these corporations don’t secure supply. So why does Clapper think there’s a meaningful corporate guarantee if the city has a burden for supply?
25. City Manager Clapper mentions industrial strength waste. What does he think that would entail?
26. Reel admits that the city still has a volume of supply risk. So who in the city would be responsible for supply? Would that person have the resources to indemnify the city? That is, could Reel or Clapper personally indemnify Whitewater for failure to deliver so-called adequate amounts of waste. Would anyone at the CDA be able to do so?
27. Could Reel or Clapper personally indemnify Whitewater and all her residents for any health or environmental damage from waste imported into the city?
28. Reel says he has had conversations with waste haulers, and those haulers could guarantee a volume, but not as much as the contractors would like. How much less?
29. Who were the waste haulers to whom Reel spoke? How did he learn of them? What is his relationship to them? Did anyone in the city or CDA assist Reel in these contacts?
30. City Manager Clapper mentions the he would, along with Reel and “Chris” [Asst. City Mgr. Chris O’Donell], personally make contact with waste haulers. How did those discussions go?
31. To whom did Messrs. Clapper, Reel, and O’Donell subsequently speak about waste importing into Whitewater? How many meetings have they had, with whom, and were any notes or records made?
32. Councilmember Ken Kidd mentions that Reel has talked to him (Kidd) personally and he (Reel) is more excited in those situations than when the “cameras are rolling.” How many side conversations by 12.3.13 had Reel had with Council members? How many has he had since? How did he contact members of the Council, in what settings, and were any notes taken?
33. What does it say about Reel that by Councilmember Kidd’s account he, Reel, takes a different approach when not at a public meeting?
From the 3.16.15 Wastewater Presentation to the Whitewater Schools (https://vimeo.com/122470431).
34. City Manager Clapper contends that “the water that actually goes [back] into the watershed is cleaner than the water in the [Whitewater] creek.” A few obvious questions: (a) how clean is the water that’s returned now, (b) how would an additional level of imported waste affect the water returned to the creek?
35. Do any by-products of waste processing now enter Whitewater’s ecosystem apart from discharge immediately from the treatment plant?
36. If they do, then what are those by-products, in what amounts?
37. If Whitewater’s municipal officials contend that no by-products enter Whitewater’s ecosystem except from immediate discharge from the treatment plant, then on what do they base that confidence?
38. Wastewater Superintendent Tim Reel (Reel) wants to make sure he is “utilizing the digester capabilities that we had [have] at the facility.” Generally, how does Reel evaluate the value of any given capacity, that is, by what economic measure does he assess the merit of one course of action over another?
39. Reel contends that “and really, the digester complex really does mimic our own digestion system, only in much larger volumes.” Why does Reel think that human digestion, following his analogy, is a clean process?
40. Reel states that one of Whitewater’s digesters is unused, and another at limited capacity. Why are the digesters so much larger than Whitewater’s present needs? (One knows, and Reel must know, but it’s a logical question.)
41. Does Reel think that his planned importation of waste into Whitewater’s digesters would be equivalent to prior local uses? Can he show a composition of waste then-and-now comparison?
42. How much importation by volume does Reel contemplate? How does he know?
43. How much in tipping fees [from other cities depositing their waste into Whitewater] does Reel contemplate? How does he know?
44. Reel estimates $2,000,000 in cost for digester upgrades. How much of that amount is for importation?
45. About 15 months ago, Reel contended the digester was a standalone project. Does he still think so? Why or why not?
46. When City Manager Clapper (Clapper) says “green is in,” what does he mean by that? Does he mean clean, or renewable, or both?
47. Does City Manager Clapper believe that waste importation is clean? Does he think it’s as clean as solar power, for example? If he does, then why does he think so? If he thinks there’s a difference, then how much of a difference?
48. How much energy does Clapper think he’ll produce?
49. Clapper contends that the by-product sludge from the waste digester is really a “green product that could be used as fertilizer.” If he thinks so, then would he put that sludge on his lawn, or on a school lawn?
50. If Clapper would place the sludge on his lawn, then why has he not yet done so?
51. If Clapper wouldn’t place the sludge on his lawn, then why not?
52. What federal and state regulations, if any, limit the deposit of sludge near residences?
53. If there are federal and state regulations that limit the deposit of sludge near residences, then why does Clapper think they’ve been enacted?
54. What scientific and industry standards, if any, limit the deposit of sludge near residences?
55. If there are scientific and industry standards that limit the deposit of sludge near residences, then why does Clapper think they’ve been established?
56. Does Clapper believe that he can produce enough power to “give back to the grid”?
57. If he does, then why hasn’t he considered how existing utilities would react, as WE Energies has reacted (negatively) elsewhere?
58. If he doesn’t think Whitewater can produce enough electricity, then how is this a meaningful power-generating program at all?
59. If this isn’t a meaningful power-generating program, then isn’t it truly a waste disposal program, using Whitewater as a vast depository for other cities’ unwanted waste?
Original School Board Presentation, 3.16.15
Full Presentation Video https://vimeo.com/122470431
From the 1.21.14 First Vendor Presentation to Common Council.
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, 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 he 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)
From the 2.4.14 Whitewater Common Council Vote to Fund a Vendor Study.
91. Wastewater Superintendent Reel (Reel) contends that the purpose of the project is to realize energy savings. At the Council meeting prior, Black & Veatch’s representative contended that the principal economic gain of the project is tipping fees (that is, money waste haulers pay to truck and dump other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater). (See, Question Bin, No. 85.) Shouldn’t Reel concede that the principal plan is a dumping plan? Isn’t calling it an energy savings plan simply a way to latch onto a more favorable-sounding public-relations pitch?
92. Reel says that dealing with ‘biosolids’ has been added to the feasibility study (rather than just liquids) for ‘clarification’. Why was that entire portion – omitted in a prior draft of the deal? Does Reel think that solids from a digester are a minor matter? What does this day about the thoroughness of the draft agreement developed weeks earlier?
93. Reel says that “this opportunity” came on us “pretty quickly.” Why does Reel think that the opportunity arrived quickly? If so, how did it arrive so quickly?
94. Doesn’t Reel’s own 12.3.13 presentation to Council, listing previous, failed iterations of this same idea, show that there’s nothing that’s been quick or need be urgent about this?
95. Reel confirms that he met with a larger waste hauler (that would dump waste into Whitewater’s digester from other cities that didn’t want it) on 1.29.14. Who was that waste hauler? Why doesn’t he mention that waste hauler’s name?
96. How can residents of the city properly evaluate the project if a city bureaucrat withholds the waste hauler’s name? Is part of Whitewater’s fiscal, economic, and environmental future to be shaped by a single wastewater superintendent’s lack of candor top the very public that pays his compensation?
97. Reel says that the unnamed waste hauler with whom he spoke hauls one-hundred million (100,000,000) gallons of waste per year. How much of that would Reel want directed to Whitewater?
98. Reel says that Whitewater is within the “geographic range” of that waste hauler. What’s that range? Why doesn’t Reel say? Where does that hauler get its waste? Why doesn’t Reel say?
99. Reel also says he received another letter of interest, from another waste hauler. Again, why won’t he speak that waste hauler’s name? Does Reel believe he owes a duty of confidentiality to the waste hauler? If he does, then does he believe that duty of confidentiality to a large commercial business trump a duty of candor to Whitewater’s residents?
100. Reel contends that he is not sure that, if Whitewater does not proceed now, it would have the same level of supposed expertise it has now (Trane, Black & Veatch, Donohue). Why does he think that, that is, if this project should be so valuable by his account, why could Whitewater not find capable vendors at a later time?
101. Reel says a possible discrepancy between parts of the draft agreement in question is “just a language thing.” What does that response say about Reel’s understanding of, and respect for, large-sum contractual agreements?
102. What is Reel’s background, if any, in negotiating large-sum contracts previously?
103. How is it that Trane’s representative (“Rachel”), who Reel claims was the responsible for the document of agreement, admits that there was a typo only after someone on Council points it out to her? How is it that she doesn’t even know whether the agreement would allow Whitewater to see preliminary study data before deciding whether to proceed with a second phase of the study?
104. Watching Rachel’s responses, can anyone have confidence in her ability?
105. Why would anyone accept Reel’s assurance that the city will get information apart from the actual agreement language on which the city is voting?
106. Reel contends that there are projects like this in other cities. Why does he not show how his project is similar to the other places that he mentions?
107. Councilmember Dr. Ken Kidd contends that “clearly it is better to be early in the game than late in the game.” Why does he think so (that is, why does he think that it is – clearly – better to be an early adopter on a proposal with fiscal, economic, and environmental impact)?
Original Common Council Discussion, 2.4.14
From Trane Presents an Energy-Savings Contract
108. Whitewater selected Trane for this energy-efficiency project (here, making several Whitewater municipal buildings supposedly more energy-efficient, for example). Who else applied? Why Trane? (Ten years earlier Whitewater used Honeywell.)
109. Like Trane’s work on the digester, this energy-efficiency project would be under a single-vendor performance-contract (rather than a separate designer and contractor approach sent to bid that would be common for most construction projects). Why choose this method over a traditional one?
110. Trane claims there would be $2,219,055 in savings to the city over fifteen years. How much have we, now in 2015, saved based on this estimate?
111. Obvious question: if we’ve not saved a fractional amount equal consistent with Trane’s calculations, then why is that? (It’s an obvious question, but the answer’s not been published anywhere, to my knowledge.)
112. The total project cost is about $1,900,000. Even after a ninety-day review from Trane, Trane’s final numbers are not available at this meeting. Why, then, present tonight? That is, why the urgency?
113. These are projects for the municipal building, library, armory, Cravath, Starin Park, and city garage. How critical are any of them?
114. Both Trane and city officials contend that these projects are urgent because of the weather. Are they really?
115. A city leader contends that inadequate air conditioning for the city administration in the municipal building is an urgent matter. Is it? How many workers in Whitewater have no air conditioning at any time? How many residents in Whitewater have no air conditioning at any time?
116. At about 34:00 into the clip of the meeting, several city officials or Council members laugh at the idea of not have improved air conditioning at the municipal building. Does it seem equally absurd to them that many ordinary residents live and work without air conditioning?
117. Trane contends that the entire project could be executed in 2014. Was it?
118. City Manager Clapper does not state the amount city capital budget that could be used for the scope of project cost, but Rachel of Trane knows it from memory. How is it the vendor knows the municipal budget figure but the city’s own manager does not?
Original Common Council Discussion, 2.20.14
Trane’s Second Presentation on an Energy-Savings Contract
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)
Trane’s Third Presentation on an Energy-Savings Contract
128. In this, Trane’s third presentation, there’s still (legitimate) doubt about how Trane’s representative (Rachel) is describing distinctions between operational and capital savings.
What does it say about this vendor’s representatives that, three times in, there’s still doubt about basic terms?
129. Why is there no presentation of alternatives between an energy-savings performance contract and incremental repairs?
130. Regardless of whether the law requires a certain format for presenting costs and claimed savings, why can neither the vendor nor the full-time administration describe the totals succinctly? (That is, does anyone think that a legal requirement to state a certain way precludes an intelligible description?)
131. What does it say about City Manager Clapper’s administration that, three times in, there’s still doubt about basic terms in the energy-savings proposal? Did Whitewater’s full-time leaders not set expectations with this vendor about how to calculate and present cost estimates?
Council Discussion, 4.15.14 (Trane)
A Wastewater Plant Update
132. Wastewater Superintendent Tim Reel (Reel) begins a discussion of a waste-digester program with a slide that says “Digester Biogas Feasibility Study” but declares that “I won’t say that word up there tonight” (video clip @ 11:10). Hard to tell what to make of his remark: does he think the topic is controversial, or does he think that it’s not (and so he’s teasing about the implications of a waste importation plan)?
Either way, how professional is his delivery?
133. Reel mentions a meeting on April 10th about the digester, and says there have been others, all well-attended (“I want to thank Chris and Cameron and all those that attended” @ 11:17). Who else was there? Did Reel or someone else take notes?
134. Reel mentions other meetings with Trane, Donohue, Black & Veatch or others (April 25, May 7). Who was at those meetings, and did anyone take notes?
135. Reel mentions that he met with Trane on 5.20.14 (that day) on a meeting with Trane on market surveys, etc. Did Reel or anyone take notes at that meeting?
136. Reel mentions that he had discussed a performance contract with Trane. Does Reel have a professional background in contract review? What is Reel’s educational and professional background?
137. Reel’s describing discussions about financing, contracting, and marketing. What experience does Reel have in any of these fields?
138. Reel contends (in this presentation) that he’s on a fast track to get federal money for the project (it would be about one-fortieth of the cost if the total project costs of $20,700,000).
Is the receipt of that small percentage, or any percentage, of federal money an adequate justification for the fiscal, economic, environmental, health, and business cultural changes that waste importation will present for Whitewater?
139. For all these meetings, how did Reel’s relationship with Trane develop for Whitewater? What does how the relationship with Trane developed say, if anything, about Wastewater Superintendent Reel’s understanding and management of a large project?
Council Presentation, 5.20.14
The Scope of Donohue’s Work (Part 2)
140. Donohue’s introduction (sec. 1.1, pg. 2) describes a ‘Strategic Direction Workshop’ that took place on 12.12.13. A few obvious questions; (1) who attended that ‘workshop,’ (2) who invited those attendees (and others not participating), and (3) what notes, if any, were taken from that meeting (other than Memo 1, itself)?
141. Donohue mentions a 12.12.13 meeting in Memo 1, but omits an earlier meeting on 11.5.13 at which representatives of Donohue, Trane, Black & Veatch, the City of Whitewater, and a waste hauler were present. Why does Donohue omit mention of this earlier meeting?
142. Section 2.3, page 3 (‘Water’) states that “[t]he value of water was discussed in detail….The option of producing a sellable water product is of major interest to the city.”
Donohue contends that this is a ‘major interest’ to city officials, yet why is this goal never mentioned in the public presentation of Messrs. Clapper and Reel in March 2015 or at a public presentation of June 2015?
(For a review of the March 2015 presentation, see The City of Whitewater Digester Clarification That Could Use a Clarification; a detailed discussion of the June presentation will be forthcoming.)
143. Is Donohue wrong about Whitewater’s priorities, or is Whitewater unwilling to discuss those priorities in public presentations?
144. If Donohue should be right about Whitewater’s actual priorities, then why wouldn’t city officials mention those priorities?
145. If Donohue should be wrong about these priorities, then why would the city publish these memo uncorrected?
146. Donohue states that ‘[t]he target would be to potentially sell this water product to the adjacent power plant.”
Which parties have an interest in that power plant?
147. What inquiries, if any, have the owners of the power plant made about acquiring water from the city? What replies, if any, have they received from Whitewater’s officials?
148. Under Section 3.1, Strategic Direction, Donohue writes that “[o]verall, the City of Whitewater has a desire to embrace the idea of converting to a recourse recovery facility.”
If this is Whitewater’s ‘overall’ goal, and it and if it involves a conversion from one approach to another, isn’t this confirmation (yet again) that Messrs. Clapper and Reel plan a change in Whitewater’s approach, rather than an in-line modernization?
149. If the overall goal is a new approach, how does this affect the relative importance of facilities upgrades as against a scheme of waste importation? Doesn’t this plan depart from past practices, while cloaked in the garb of mere upgrades?
150. I’ve written before that a project like this should be evaluated fiscally, economically, environmentally, in consideration of pubic health, and as it influences Whitewater’s business culture.
In Section 3.2, Donohue outlines its Economic Evaluation:
A full economic evaluation will be developed for each alternative. Several key economic factors related to energy and financial values are critical for the economic evaluation. For this first report, the following assumptions will be made for the annual rates:
Discount rate: 3% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135)
Inflation Rate: 0.5% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135)
Natural Gas Escalation Rate: 2% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST
Electricity Escalation Rate: 2% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST
The initial energy values will be based on the 2013 budgeted values. The initial energy value assumptions were:
Electrical rate: $0.086/kwh
Using these economic evaluation criteria, a simple payback analysis and a 20-year total present worth savings can be developed. A similar Life Cycle Cost Analysis will be developed for each alternative.
How is listing a few metrics – apparently ones general to America rather than specific to our market – the basis of an economic analysis? Wouldn’t an economic analysis, by definition, require a study of the ‘production, development, and management of material wealth of a country, household, or business enterprise’? The economic analysis would be the influence of the project of Whitewater’s economy, not the mere cost or price of various components and ingredients of the project. Some of what’s being presented as economic is merely fiscal, that is, budgetary.
151. If Donohue hasn’t done an economic analysis, specific to Whitewater, what does this say about the scope and thoroughness of its work?
152. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific economic analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so?
153. Does Donohue’s work include a comprehensive fiscal analysis – not merely on rates, but on the city’s budgetary health – of this $20.7 million-dollar plan?
154. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific fiscal analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so?
155. Does Donohue’s work include a comprehensive environmental analysis, that is, a study of the effects of waste importation into Whitewater on our area’s ecosystem? Why does a ‘strategic direction’ memorandum not even mention environmental impact?
156. Does Donahue’s analysis include a review of the environmental consequences of importing other cities’ unwanted waste (far more than that produced by city residents) into our ecosystem? If so, where is that detailed analysis?
157. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific environmental analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so? If these full-time, taxpayer-supported leaders have done this analysis, then where is it?
158. Does Donahue’s analysis include a review of the public health consequences of importing other cities’ unwanted waste (far more than that produced by city residents) into our area? If so, where is that detailed analysis?
159. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific public health analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so? If these full-time, taxpayer-supported leaders have done this analysis, then where is it?
160. Does Donahue’s examination include a review of the influence on our business culture of long-term relationships with waste haulers, including the few members of the business establishment who might have an interest in profiting by trucking other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater?
161. If Donohue hasn’t undertaken that assessment, then why hasn’t City Manager Clapper done so? If he has done so, then where is his analysis?
162. City Manager Clapper has declared a project that includes the importation of other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater would be “probably the greenest process we have in the city.” What is his basis for saying as much? Other than merely uttering the claim, what review of the environmental and public health implications of waste hauling would support his declaration?
163. If Whitewater is a city worth one’s care and attention – and she is certainly such a city – then will Whitewater’s full-time city administration exercise this level of care? Is not our city worth at least this much (and much more)?
Donohue Technical Memo 1, Strategic Direction, http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/images/stories/public_works/wastewater/Donohue_Technical_Memo_1_-_Strategic_Direction.pdf.
From Donohue’s Technical Memorandum 2 (Population).
164. Why these three estimates – not why three estimates, but why these three?
165. Of the three, aren’t two of these sources (Wisconsin Department of Administration, City of Whitewater) expressly political bodies in the way that the third (U.S. Census Bureau) is not?
166. Wouldn’t a political body have an incentive to contend for population increases as evidence of growth, vitality, etc.?
167. Of the City of Whitewater’s case, Donohue writes that
The population of the City of Whitewater has steadily increased for several decades. However, the City is anticipating significant growth through the year 2035. The census population for the City was 14,390 in 2010. The City?led growth study predicted a growth rate of 0.93 percent annually for 2008 to 2013, and the City has adopted this growth rate for long?range planning purposes. Based on this data, the year 2035 (design year) population is projected to be 18,398.
Why would the City-led growth study assume that a bounceback-from-recession, pre-university-cuts level of growth from ’08-’13 would continue identically each year for the next 22 years? What does it reliably mean, if anything, that Whitewater takes a number from the recent past and simply ‘adopts’ it as a standard for the next two decades?
168. Does the City of Whitewater analysis take into account university cuts’ impact on the economy and growth of our city since 2013? If not, why not?
169. If the City of Whitewater projections do take into account university cuts’ impact on the economy and growth of our city since 2013, and still the city estimates significant growth, then does City Manager Clapper conclude that the cuts will have no impact on growth?
170. Aren’t a recent study and findings from Sarah Kemp of the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on enrollment and demographics in the Whitewater Unified School District evidence that, in the city and surrounding area, growth that produces enrollment gains will be tepid? Why would one conclude in favor of the City of Whitewater’s rosy population estimates (simply adopting an increase for the next two decades) over actual evidence of decline (in this case, of school enrollment, and therefore families bringing children into area schools)?
171. Why does Donohue not use population protections from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC)? They make no mention of the SEWPRC or its work in population projection and analysis. (The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) “is the official metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and regional planning commission (RPC) for the seven county southeastern Wisconsin area.” Walworth County is part of the organization, an organization founded in 1960. Their data are for Walworth County. )
172. If Donohue had used the respected Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission estimates, wouldn’t they have found 15,838 as the 2035 population estimate (SEWRPC Regional Land Use Plan (Intermediate Growth Scenario) or 15,273 (Trend Based)? (See, Comprehensive Plan for Walworth County: 2035.)
173. Of the five available population projections, hasn’t Donohue adopted one that’s ten-percent higher than the U.S. Census (simply projected by Donohue linearly) and sixteen-percent higher than our area’s own regional planning authority’s estimates for our principal county?
174. Was Donohue even aware of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission work? If so, shouldn’t they explain the decision to omit it? If not, why would Whitewater’s city administration , itself, ignore that work, and leave Donohue’s ignorance of it uncorrected?
Donohue Technical Memo 2, Flows, Loadings, and Existing Conditions, http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/images/stories/public_works/wastewater/Donohue_Technical_Memo_2_-_Flows_Loadings_and_Existing_Conditions.pdf.
A First Pass Over Technical Memo 4.
175. In Chapter III, Donohue describes the costs associated with the project as one of three kinds:
Each improvement alternative will be categorized as listed below.
Essential – Improvements that are essential to maintaining a safe and properly functioning anaerobic digestion system and biosolids land application program.
Recommended – Improvements that either address issues that will become critical in the 20-year planning horizon or they enhance performance, efficiency, and/or cost effectiveness.
Discretionary – Improvements that warrant consideration because they add value in some manner: tangible or intangible.
Looking at the list of possible expenditures (page 12), is there a single item necessary for expanded waste-importation that appears in the firm’s essential category?
176. If there’s not a single item related to expanded waste-importation that’s essential to this project, shouldn’t that increase the burden of justification for proceeding? That is, City Manager Clapper and Wastewater Superintendent Reel may want to import high-strength waste from other cities into Whitewater, but why do they need to do so?
177. If the answer should be revenue-generation, then why do Messrs. Clapper and Reel think that increasing the amount of high-strength industrial waste in Whitewater is their optimal means of revenue-generation? That is, of all the possible ideas to bolster the city budget, why this one?
178. Is the idea of waste-importation into Whitewater an idea that’s uniquely theirs, or has it been suggested to them? If it’s been suggested to them, who has suggested it to them? Are any of those suggesting the idea from Whitewater, either in city government, at the Community Development Authority, or among the big-business lobby in Whitewater?
179. If waste-importation isn’t essential by Donohue’s own estimation, to whose benefit (cui bono) is it?
180. Where’s the Trane study? After all, Donohue’s own assessment directly cites Trane’s work:
In 2014 Trane and Black & Veatch conducted a Feasibility Study that evaluated the possibility of utilizing the facility’s unused anaerobic digestion capacity to treat high strength hauled in waste to generate additional biogas to produce energy. The study examined adding high strength waste receiving facilities, improvements to the existing digesters, biogas treatment systems, biogas storage, and biogas utilization equipment. The study concluded that a large energy generation project was not cost effective.
Donohue writes that this study was conducted in 2014, yet it’s not been published despite being a public record, of a public project, authorized at public expense.
181. What’s the relationship, if any, between waste-importation and the City of Whitewater’s professed goal (as Donohue describes it) of the “option of producing a sellable water product [that] is of major interest to the city.”
182. How much waste by volume would Whitewater have to import from other cities to meet the minimum, supposed revenue-generation goals of this project?
183. How much waste by volume could Whitewater import from other cities after this upgrade?
184. Where would the waste go after processing in the digester – not generally, but specifically.
185. Donohue writes on page 6 about discretionary “[i]mprovements that warrant consideration because they add value in some manner: tangible or intangible.” On a construction and waste-importing project of this kind, what does Donohue – or anyone else advocating for the project – think the intangible values would be?
Technical Memo 4: http://www.freewhitewater.com/uploads/TM_4_Digestion_Complex_and_Energy_Production_v4-final.pdf
The Donohue Firm’s First Public Presentation of 6.17.14.
186. Although this is the Donohue firm’s first public presentation to Whitewater, one knows that they have been involved by this time in the wastewater upgrade for months, by officials’ own accounts (at least as early as 11.5.13, it seems). Who picked Donohue to attend that 2013 meeting?
187. Yet, perhaps they’ve been involved even sooner. City Manager Clapper mentions at a 6.23.15 public meeting a process to find the engineering firm for this wastewater upgrade project. He says that
We started the design process with our current engineering firm in July of 2014, but we really started in 2013 with facility planning. We went through a very large process calling in several different engineering firms that are well-know throughout the state for providing municipalities with engineering services. We took a look at several different firms involved, two of our Council members and some other professionals in the realm of city government and managing city government and public works to be evaluating these firms before we even got to the one we have now. Then we got Donohue and Associates. We selected Donohue to be our, to be the firm that we use, and then that was still, gosh I want to say middle of fall of 2013 maybe when we got started with that. [Off camera, ‘yes.’]
When did a Whitewater official first meet with Donohue?
188. By City Manager Clapper’s own account, several engineering firms were involved in “facility planning.” Wasn’t Donohue one of those firms?
189. If Donohue was involved in facility planning for months (perhaps nine or more) before being selected as the city’s firm in July 2014, didn’t the firm have a role in shaping the very planning that led to its selection?
190. Who are the “other professionals in the realm of city government and managing city government and public works” who attended or played a role in facility planning in 2013, 2014?
191. Which two Common Council members were involved in this “facility planning” process?
192. How many meetings were held for facility planning, with which attendees? How many times was Donohue part of those meetings? (Later in this 6.17.14 presentation, there’s a statement that Donohue was involved in at least 40 hours of meetings.)
193. If waste-importation were not important to the overall project, then why would a (as yet unnamed) waste-hauler have been one of the participants at an 11.5.13 meeting with Wastewater Superintendent Reel and others?
194. Where’s Trane? Wastewater Superintendent Reel mentions on 5.20.14, less than a month before this presentation from Donohue, that he and others had meetings with Trane in May (on 5.20.14, in fact, for market surveys, etc.).
195. Donohue is the only firm at the 6.17.14 presentation. Why was there no second proposal – that is, why only Donohue?
196. How is this a genuinely competitive process between firms, with only one firm presenting (and whose plan is adopted a month later with no intervening, competitive public presentations)?
197. Donohue project manager Mike Gerbitz, PE, says that he has been working with city staff for five or six months, but that this is his first public presentation, on an $18.6 million-dollar project. He tells Council that he will probably present again in July. This presentation is less than a hour, with Gerbitz doing almost all the speaking. What level of elected, political oversight does that represent?
198. Gerbitz says that he met with some staff and some councilmembers at his firm’s interview. When was that, who else was there, and what notes did public officials take, if any?
199. On waste processing, generally: Do Gerbitz, the Donohue firm, or municipal officials think that state requirements for processing waste represent a floor or a ceiling for the proper standard of care?
200. Gerbitz’s slide presentation shows a Chevy Cavalier from 1982 to illustrate how technologies change, and so (by his implication) technology upgrades are necessary. Fair enough, but how is this plant like a Cavalier (as against, say, an asphalt road or a suspension bridge from generations ago?).
201. Gerbitz contends that the value of the existing plant is $60 million dollars, measured as a replacement cost. By his own account, much of the plant does not need to be replaced, so why mention the claimed $60 million-dollar value? Isn’t the mentioning a large figure that will never be needed simply a technique to make the existing expenditure of $18.6 million look more reasonable?
202. Gerbitz observes that even M&M candies or chocolate milk in large quantities without processing would harm a water supply. Will what’s actually processed in the plant be more, or less, harmful than M&M candies or chocolate milk?
203. If the goal is processing waste, why is Donohue (at this stage) by its own admission not addressing the digester?
204. Gerbitz says that a working digester is analogous to a human stomach’s digestion. How clean does he think that is?
The Donohue Firm’s Second Public Presentation of 7.15.14.
205. The twenty-five minute presentation begins with mention that it will be for approval of a contract with Donohue. Why presume approval?
206. Donohue representative Mike Gerbitz mentions the forty-five-minute 6.17.14 presentation to Council (the only other one Donohue had yet made to the full Council) as “lengthy.” Is forty-five minutes for a plan that would cost $18.6 million really lengthy? Doesn’t it seem short, in fact?
207. At the 6.17.14 presentation, Gerbitz, Wastewater Superintendent Reel, or City Manager Clapper spoke for over 41 minutes of a 45 minute Donohue presentation. How is less than four minutes of Council discussion due diligence for an initial public presentation? (Even then, wasn’t part of that four minutes occupied with observations from a resident, rather than a questions from Council?)
208. The whole presentation on 7.15.14 is 25 minutes, but aren’t 15 of those minutes just a rehash of the earlier, 6.17.14 presentation?
209. Gerbitz mentions that the digester complex is a separate project (presumably at this point under the aegis of Trane). Later in this same discussion, Gerbitz says that there have been – by his account – three meetings with Donohue, Trane, Black & Veatch, and city officials about the digester. So how separate has the digester project really been, up through 7.15.14?
210. Ken Kidd, councilman-physician, is one of the few people to speak, and declares (regarding the digester) that “you guys play well.” Is that Dr. Kidd’s level of oversight, to observe that others play well? (Hasn’t Kidd, after all, has been a digester-project supporter from at least the earliest moments of public discussion?)
211. Gerbitz tells Council at this 7.15.14 meeting that a plan based on their approval will be submitted to state officials “next week.” What does this say about Gerbitz’s presumption about approval? What does it say about the full Council’s role as an inquisitive, diligent, thorough point of review?
(Gerbitz mentions during the meeting, where his firm is looking to have a million-dollar contract approved, that Donohue has already started with design. Council awards Donohue a $1.168 million contract at this meeting.)
212. Gerbitz tells Council that he’ll not bother them with details or line-items about the project. Does he think those details are insignificant, or does he think that those details are either insignificant or uninteresting to Whitewater’s Common Council?
213. How unimportant are those details, after all? Would Gerbitz be willing to delete or ignore some of them in his planning? That seems unlikely; so why would he presume that they’re unimportant to Council?
214. One knows from City Manager Clapper’s remarks on 6.23.15 that two councilpersons played a role in selecting Donohue. Did a smaller group than the whole of Council play a role in selecting Trane? If so, which ones?
215. How often did that smaller number meet with Trane, Donohue, or Black & Veatch by the time of this meeting? Did anyone take notes?
216. If Whitewater had the choice between removing phosphorous or paying a set amount for its continued presence, which would be the superior option for health and the environment? Gerbitz describes city officials as preferring the least-expensive choice. Are either City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel qualified to determine which choice is better as a matter of health and safety?
The December 2014 Presentation (Part 1).
217. Donohue’s first technical memo mentions that a goal of Whitewater’s city officials is to sell water (“[t]he value of water was discussed in detail….The option of producing a sellable water product is of major interest to the city.”). Why no mention of that goal here?
218. Donohue’s presentation, by their account, addresses the ‘liquids train’ portion of the project (that is, not the biosolids processing at the plant). Can one have a liquids train project without a biosolids train? (It’s a rhetorical question.) More directly: does a particular liquids train method require a definite biosolids train method? If so, when and which methods are bound in this way?
219. Whitewater, as Donohue outlines it, has two options for phosphorus management: (1) Option One (immediate compliance with phosphorus reduction upon construction) or (2) Option Two, using the so-called “Clean Waters, Healthy Economy Act” without any capital costs. Donohue recommends Option Two.
The obvious question: how much phosphorus does Option Two remove, in absolute terms and relative to Option One? Since Option Two requires a payment in lieu of physical reductions, for Whitewater’s environment doesn’t Option Two’s solution really mean no practical, significant phosphorus reduction at all?
220. Why did Whitewater’s officials choose paying to allow continued levels of phosphorus discharge in the local environment rather than commit to actual, physical reductions in levels of phosphorus discharge?
221. When did City Manager Clapper first choose Option Two? (He presumably chose Option Two – payment in lieu of significant phosphorus reductions – by the time of this 12.16.14 presentation. If it were otherwise, Donohue would be advocating a key approach without the assent of Whitewater’s full-time staff.)
222. What record, if any, does City Manager Clapper have of the basis of his decision on or before 12.16.14 in favor of Option Two (payment in lieu of significant phosphorus reductions)?
The December 2014 Presentation (Part 2).
And question two I’d have is the phosphorus treatment that you’ve included in here. Other communities have done significant treatment of their phosphorus by putting it out on land so that it trickles and does its cleaning itself. What’s the process you’ve decided on the phosphorus in this? And, cause I think that’s a very expensive component of what’s being proposed. And so, have you looked what are the options on the phosphorus treatment and has the city been able to consider we’ve got a big industrial park with a lot of vacant land…there is land that could be used to treat that phosphorus. I just would like for the Common Council to understand those decisions.
223. Is Knight serious in his contention that a possible method of treatment for Whitewater is “putting it out on land so that it trickles and does its cleaning itself?”
224. Does he really think that a possible solution is spreading phosphorus on vacant land in the business park?
225. Where does Knight, after all, think that the phosphorus “trickles?”
226. On 7.15.14 – five months before this December meeting – Donohue explained the options for addressing phosphorus (actually removing it at the source or paying a charge for non-removal above regulatory-defined limits). Donohue explained those same options in this very December meeting, shortly before Knight speaks. Why doesn’t CDA Chair Knight – voluntarily speaking on this issue – know the phosphorus option that Donohue presented (and the city administration accepted) five months earlier?
227. Why doesn’t Knight understand how the method Donohue recommends – and the city administration accepted five months earlier – addresses phosphorus not by removal, but by paying a charge for non-removal? Isn’t Mr. Knight who’s the one who doesn’t understand this subject?
228. If spreading phosphorus on the ground so that it “trickles” is an effective solution, will the executive members of the Greater Whitewater Committee (among them Knight, CDA member Larry Kachel, and councilman Dr. Kidd) spread it on their lawns and properties?
229. If Whitewater wants to market the town to residential development, is it an effective marketing presentation to offer Whitewater as a town where the phosphorus plan is “putting it out on land so that it trickles and does its cleaning itself.”)
(Two points worth making: (1) I know that there’s no chance of this bizarre idea as an actual plan – the problem is that CDA Chair Knight actually suggests it, and (2) how can any community have confidence in supposed public-relations – especially directed toward attracting residential home sales – with ideas of this absurd kind?)
The December 2014 Presentation (Part 3).
230. At approximately forty-five minutes into the discussion, Wastewater Superintendent Reel compares the regulatory limit for phosphorus for Whitewater and Beloit. He observes that Whitewater’s regulatory phosphorus limit will be .075 mg/L, while Beloit’s will be .2 mg/L, and that Beloit has a higher limit because Beloit discharges into a larger body of water. Isn’t this an admission that Whitewater’s ecosystem cannot manage the same volume of chemical discharge, generally, that other, geographically larger or geographically more diffusive areas can manage?
231. If it should be true (that Whitewater’s ecosystem cannot manage the same volume of chemical discharge, generally, that other, geographically larger or geographically more diffusive areas can manage), then why would Whitewater be a city seeking to import large quantities of waste from other cities?
232. CDA member (and business lobby president) Larry Kachel asks how many people the plant – now – can accommodate by population. Why can’t Superintendent Reel answer with a ready number of how many people?
233. Reel states that the plant’s capacity was designed to accommodate large businesses no longer in the city (dairy Hawthorne-Melody, for example). Is the upgrade being designed with that same greater-than-now needed capacity?
234. If so (that is, if Whitewater new proposal is using a floor that’s based on industrial needs no longer present in the city), then how will that over-capacity be used?
235. At about fifty-six minutes into the discussion, Donohue representative Mike Gerbitz (in answer to a question) says that communities like Whitewater often fund projects like this via subsidized loans rather than bonds because those communities would not qualify for bonds issued (in this case, projected) at 2.7%, and that they take the subsidized loans because it doesn’t reflect in the same way against their borrowing capacity. Isn’t this a tacit admission that the full project cost is outside Whitewater’s capacity to borrow in an unsubsidized, free market?
236. Do city officials think – regardless of how a loan is treated in the formal accounting of it – that the cost of the project by a loan with interest or in bonds with interest is not an obligation?
237. Donohue representative Nathan Cassity, PE speaks beginning at about 1:07 in the presentation about a digester-energy project. Cassity cites a study from Trane that he contends projected a large digester-energy plan that would not be cost effective ($12.4 million in cost, $800,000 in debt service, but only $450,000-560,000 in revenue). Did Cassity see Trane’s completed study (he implies that he did)? Has the full Trane study been released? If not, then why not?
238. Cassity talks about the possibility of importing “high-strength” waste into the facility to generate revenue in a “baby step approach.” What kinds of high-strength waste does he mean?
239. In what probable amounts, and by kind of waste and proportion to the whole amount imported, would that high-strength waste be?
240. What would be the maximum capacity of the waste importation into the digester by Cassity’s proposal?
241. Cassity talks about moving from the initial approach on waste importation to a “phased” increase in waste importation, about which he contends “he has more [information],” but does not disclose. He doesn’t describe, for example, how much more waste that “phased” importation would entail, or of what type it would be. Why hasn’t the plan for phased, increased importation of outside waste – one that Cassity says that he had as of (at least) 12.16.14 – been released?
242. How is it that – in a scheduled presentation – neither Donohue representatives nor city employees can answer, specifically, questions about item costs or supposed greater efficiencies?
243. Who was, by Gerbitz’s account, the attorney who worked with Reel to develop a plan to pay a charge in lieu of removal, rather than actual removal, of phosphorus? How many times did Reel meet with that attorney? Who else, if anyone, was at those meetings?
244. As compared with point-source phosphorus reductions (that is, at municipal plants), how much phosphorus reduction will municipal payments to county agencies produce? (That is, not whether those payments will be cheaper, but how much payments under something like the CWHE Act will actually reduce phosphorus)?
The Pilot Program.
Whitewater’s Wastewater Superintendent Reel describes his experimentation at the wastewater plant using industrial waste for a digester-energy project:
Umm, we are not, not processing any agricultural waste.
Question: “It’s industrial waste that we’re doing now?”
And actually we piloted industrial waste simply because the bang for the buck as far as volume to strength so to speak was much greater with industrial waste. So we piloted that. Umm, we learned a lot in a short amount of time. We made more gas than we, we couldn’t control the gas that we were making, for a period of time when we were piloting. Umm, but the issues we had we didn’t have a mode to properly get that product into out tanks we had a tanker a nine-thousand gallon tanker with flex hose going into our digesters [smiles] so we had a leak, you know, we had some issues out there but we we did run that we ran a multitude of different products into our digesters to learn in a short period of time what might work. And, ah, I think staff was very involved in that process and, umm, it was positive, we learned a lot in short period. But, because we had, we couldn’t take advantage of the gas we were creating it became more of a, ah, cost on our labor, then we had nowhere to go with the great gas we were producing. So, we learned what we could in a short amount of time but it was a strain on hours to do that in some fashion because we were doling it in a temporary fashion, ah, maintaining, you know watchin’ those hoses. We didn’t have the infrastructure in place to properly monitor that to make sure that we didn’t have issues.
Question: You can’t really cost effectively make changes that will make that viable, then?
Umm, I do think, and that’s, Nathan [Cassity, of the Donohue firm] alluded to that, umm, that we can, and that’s the baby-steps that he alluded to. And if we, my plug has always been that if we don’t try we’ll never know. Umm, but we do have a tremendous [emphasizes] amount of capacity sitting idle. at the plant. Umm, I think I stated last time, again, we have one digester empty, the other digester is only at one-fifth capacity. So, I mean, we have a lot of room, ah, to bring product in, umm, there is interest out there, umm, we know, I’ve talked to the Council about the risks with that, but I think that as we, ah, venture into that territory I think that there’s a lot of possible, positive outcomes there.
245. How long did the pilot program last?
246. What industrial wastes did Reel use?
247. What quantities did he use?
248. From what sources did he obtain those wastes?
249. How many leaks did the program experience, and of what type, and in what volume?
250. Did Reel report leaks to anyone else in city government? If so, to whom?
251. Did Reel or anyone else in government report leaks to county, state, or federal agencies?
252. How did Reel come upon the idea of attaching flex hose to a 9,000-gallon tank truck for his experiment?
253. Where did the gas Reel produced go?
254. Why would Reel undertake a pilot program when, by his own admission, the city “didn’t have the infrastructure in place to properly monitor that to make sure that we didn’t have issues”?
255. When Reel talks about describing risks to the city at public meetings, can he point to a single instance where he considered risks other than adequate supply of imported wastes? (That is, can Reel show that he has publicly discussed the environmental and health aspects of waste importation?)
256. Could the so-called ‘baby-steps’ program be rapidly escalated to large-scale importation program? If not, why not (specifically)?
257. Isn’t it obvious that Reel wants a large-scale importation program?
258. Where does Reel think money from an importation program principally derives? Does he think it’s gas production, or tipping fees for items imported by truck and dumped into Whitewater’s digester?
259. Did Reel receive approval from anyone else in city government to conduct these experiments, or did he act on his own? If he received approval, from whom did he receive approval?
260. Do Reel, Clapper, or others in city government think that large quantities of liquids and solids imported into Whitewater from other places, after processing, wouldn’t still require removal and dissemination (in their converted forms)? That is, they’ve worked to seek quantity in (by their own statements) but have they considered equally the quantities to be returned to the environment?
What Stops a Trane?
261. Did Trane complete a full study as contractually promised?
262. If Trane did not complete a full study as contractually promised, why did she not?
263. Where is the information, of any type, from that full or partial Trane study?
264. Is it not clear that Trane’s waste study was or is (a) important to city officials who authorized it, (b) important to the Donohue firm that relied on it as a discarded, unfeasible alternative, and (c) as public documents that reveal this history of this project and soundness of officials’ confidence in Trane?
265. Why did the City of Whitewater reach a point where city officials discussed “litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved” and “[s]trategy and settlement discussions related” to Trane’s digester-energy study (among other issues)?
266. How was the matter with Trane resolved?
267. Considering the slides above, and the claims of city officials (City Mgr. Clapper, Wastewater Superintendent Reel) and Donohue that what Whitewater might do now is a ‘baby-steps’ program, isn’t it clear that the supposed second option is merely a thin-entering wedge for large-scale waste importation into the city?
(Even Donohue‘s description of Trane‘s alleged work implies as much, when one sees that Donohue begins by asking “does it make sense to build everything at once?” – emphasis added. There’d be no need for ‘at once’ if Donohue and city officials did not plan, now, for a larger program of importing waste into Whitewater, later).
268. Under the supposedly baby-steps program, as outlined in slide 2, how much waste by volume would have to be trucked into the city to achieve the claimed revenue projections?
269. Under the supposedly baby-steps program, as outlined in slide 2, how much waste could be trucked into the city?
Questions on the 9.17.15 Remarks on Waste Importation.
270. The questioner, a member of Whitewater’s local government, helpfully says that there is ‘an element’ of waste importation in this program. What does he think that element is? Isn’t that element six years of waste importation, with an assumption of thirty-thousand in fees received from waste haulers dumping waste into the digester?
Whitewater City Manager Clapper: Yep.
Q (continues): Would you like to address that in terms of the concern for environmental issues and the like?
271. The question asks about ‘environmental issues and the like.’ Shouldn’t environmental issues deserve greater attention that a sexagenarian’s dismissive inclusion of them as ‘environmental issues and the like’? What, by the way, are environmental issues if not, especially for those far younger than the questioner, health issues?
272. As I’ve written more than once that waste importation concerns fiscal, economic, environmental, health, and business culture issues for a community. Other than a question or two, and a few vendor-crafted PowerPoint slides, what can either the questioner or Whitewater’s city manager show of original work and thought on these subjects?
Clapper: Yes, I will. And I will go back just a quick second to one of these aerials of the whole facility. So, the digester complex is up in the upper right corner of the screen. And that is where, we, I already mentioned the process and the methane gas byproduct that could be utilized more effectively.
273. Why would anyone claim that the methane ‘could be utilized’ when the very plan that the municipal government has put forth promises six years of actual gas savings? Despite an investment of over two-million in this part of the project, is City Manager Clapper uncertain about gas production even now?
274. Methane gas production is promised to generate significant sums in each of the initial six years of waste importation, as part of a ‘simple payback’ of the costs of importing it. Will City Manager Clapper guarantee those savings from his own salary? Much is said from city government about entrepreneurship and economic development: wouldn’t a private business have to provide assets as collateral for a project?
In addition to what we process onsite we have in the community, we have, umm, grease traps every restaurant and some other food processing places have grease traps and other traps for food waste that then gets collected by a private entity and as their traps are cleaned out and then that material is dumped somewhere. Very often that material comes to our wastewater treatment facility.
275. City Manager Clapper contends that – based on the very plan that he has proposed – waste importation from grease traps will provide a significant part this importation. Does anyone – anyone in all the world – think that local restaurants’ discarded grease will produce vast quantities of methane and tipping fees for even the ‘baby steps’ project he proposes? If some of these restaurants are – by his account – already supplying this grease to Whitewater, of what use is that quantity to the incremental waste dumping he needs to generate tipping fees, etc. for the digester?
We also have food processing plants in the area beyond just our city boundaries, but in the area, that have food waste, ah, high concentrations of byproducts from food processing, all organic material, umm, that they need a place to deposit.
276. Key question: Does City Manager Clapper contend that organic material – discarded from others – is inherently safe? Are not rotting food, human feces, animal feces, and animal carcasses also organic material? How many of those substances would he eat, touch, or willingly slip into the water table?
277. Hasn’t Mr. Clapper’s own chosen vendor – the Donohue firm – already contended that even benign substances in larger qualities are dangerous? If Mr. Clapper is, as he contends in public presentations, knowledgeable about these matters, why does he ignore his own vendor’s assessment?
And so, we have currently, and I wish I had a laser pointer, maybe I can with this cursor, no, I can’t, umm, in the lower right corner of the screen our administration building, right next to the well and right through the door into the place where we have people working there is a dump spot for that waste. Which is very aromatic, to say the least [laughter from audience].
278. About the smell – a complaint that a project in Janesville, WI has elicited from many residents there: does the city manager think that increased importation will make the stench better or worse?
So, umm, and an inadequate site, any big trucks that come in have to snake through, they come down a long road by the power plant and by John’s Disposal, come in, come around down, around again, and back up to that area to dump. What we want to do is establish a more effective, efficient way for them to do that.
And so we’re looking to build a concrete pad on the north side of that digester facility that would allow, it’s actually two or three concrete pads, to address all the different types of waste that would be deposited there, and the different types of, umm, trucks or tankers that would be supplying it.
279. Isn’t a plan for stronger roads for waste haulers’ trucks, and multiple concrete pads confirmation of the size of this effort, and that it’s more than a few grease traps’ of waste?
The material, that, so that’s what we’re doing as part of this project. It’s a few hundred thousand dollars which is a lot of money. It sounds kinda, it makes me ill to say that as if it’s just 300,000 dollars, but it’s a few hundred thousand dollars out of the two-million for this facility that would allow us to have those pads. What that gives us is an opportunity to allow for additional waste to be deposited in our facility and processed.
280. How much additional waste by volume?
Umm, if that were to work, and we found that it was in high demand and the facility was able to function properly without any problems we would go on to explore in future years, five years, ten years, ah, eight years, look at doing more with the equipment inside the digester facility to incorporate the methane, the energy generated by the methane gas that we could then burn into the heating and electricity of the rest of the facility.
281. Isn’t it obvious that this is the thin-entering wedge of a much bigger program? Why, by the way, is there talk about eight or ten years, when supposedly ‘baby steps’ plan is for six?
So, originally, I think the very first time it was brought forward was all kinda one package and the idea that we would be building new digesters, which we are not doing, because we have them already, and in addition, put in all this other stuff in.
282. Why does Cameron Clapper persist in the claim that there was concern about more digesters being built, when that claim has been debunked? See, The City of Whitewater Digester Clarification That Could Use a Clarification. Isn’t it clear by now that the relevant and material concern is hauling waste into Whitewater?
We’re not doing that we’re taking it slow and easy to see if it’s even a viable thing to do.
283. Is better road for trucks and multiple pads for dumping other cities’ unwanted waste is taking it ‘slow and easy’?
But right now many communities throughout the state are switching, their, I guess their focus and mentality with treating wastewater from wastewater treatment to nutrient management, is what it’s called and basically it’s trying to derive from the byproduct of a wastewater treatment facility energy and taking advantage of that sludge and what it can do.
284. If other cities were using all their waste for their own needs, what would there be left for Whitewater? Isn’t it clear that whatever Mr. Clapper considers ‘nutrient management’ to be, it’s not other cities taking waste, but rather other cities dumping their waste in places like Whitewater?
So, umm, another part of the concern, to the question that you asked, Lynn, I think has been that we’d have these tankers with toxic waste driving through our city and dropping waste off at our wastewater treatment facility. That’s not the case.
285. What does Mr. Clapper think toxic means? (See question 277.)
Umm, I think of [sighs] a good example, umm, Hidden Valley Ranch bringing a truck load of all the cream and material that they didn’t use, for their ranch dressing. Bringing it here and dropping it off. Umm, some of those trucks are already coming through anyway whether it be through the bypass or because they have to make stops at different facilities or different buildings in this city.
286. Does Mr. Clapper possibly think that he’ll power this project from unwanted salad dressing?
So, it wouldn’t be, it wouldn’t be anything we’re not already used to and it wouldn’t be toxic, umm, my children are not gonna to glow in the dark when we’re done kinds of stuff [audience laughter]. It’s high concentrations of the same material that’s already going in.
287. Do children only get sick or develop abnormally when they are exposed to substances that make them ‘glow in the dark’? In fact, isn’t it true that every child in the history of the world who grew sick or developed abnormally did so without glowing in the dark? Don’t chemicals cripple and destroy lives each day without fluorescence?
Follow up on 287: Whitewater, is this the quality of your appointed manager’s analysis and understanding?
So in order for that to work we have to evaluate every, every time someone wants to come and drop material off they would have to call ahead, and we would have to get a chemical sample and test that material before we would allow it to stay at our facility, to make sure it doesn’t damage our system and it’s not something other than what we’ve said we’ll accept.
288. What volume does Mr. Clapper expect, that someone would call ahead, and have each truck tested? How does he imagine that system to operate?
289. Isn’t the principal concern not that waste would damage the city’s industrial system, but that it would damage human systems, so to speak, of actual people?
290. Will Cameron Clapper stake his personal assets and his continued municipal employment on a promise by sworn affidavit in which he guarantees that he will provide a verifiable sample from each truckload of waste into the city for testing (by an independent party not of his exclusive selection, available for direct review by any resident), provide proof of the origin of each truckload, and provide proof of the destination of each truckload of sludge (his term, see above) that Whitewater processes?
291. How green, actually, is production of methane?
‘A Truck Loop Specified for Heavy Truck Traffic’
292. What’s the maximum truck volume that this project can accommodate as presented?
293. What’s the actual truck volume that this project would require even under its initial formulation?
294. Why does the Donohue representative (Nathan Cassity) expressly mentions that waste importation would take place on ‘a truck loop really specified for heavy truck traffic’ if he didn’t think that available capacity was relevant and material to the project? (The alternative, it seems, would require one to believe that Mr. Cassity simply utters irrelevant and immaterial remarks in public meetings. If the alternative should improbably be true, perhaps Whitewater’s local government might ask for a discount on the million-plus consulting fee.)
295. After well over two years of discussions and presentations about waste importation – including ten presentations from City Manager Clapper to small, cherry-picked insiders’ groups – City Manager Clapper and Wastewater Superintendent Reel now contend that six or more years of waste importation would be mere experimentation. Isn’t it obvious that use of the term experimentation for their proposed effort is a transparent attempt to downplay a project that the vendor on which they rely candidly admits would use ‘a truck loop really specified for heavy truck traffic’?
296. Considering that Rockford alone is 10.22 times the size of Whitewater, with a wastewater district size (by extent of lines) 21.15 times as great, why would Rockford be a suitable comparison for Whitewater?
297. Wouldn’t a commitment to diligence have meant at least asking this as a follow-up question?
WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN: Mondays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.
Volume for Payback.
After over two years of discussion, including meetings of Whitewater’s common council, and ten selected meetings with particular community groups, and an unknown (as yet) but significant number of private meetings about waste importation, consider this declaration:
“The simple payback on that [a waste-receiving station at $431,000] conservatively is six years.”
Set aside the absurd, but oddly repeated assertion that this payback would come from discarded salad dressing and the contents of grease traps. A simple question:
298. What number of trucks, by size of truck, would be required to produce a supposedly simple payback in six years?
Volume for Payback (Isn’t So Simple After All).
Consider this timeline:
December 2014: In a 12.14.14 meeting, Donohue presents two scenarios for energy production – a large project that former vendor Trane reportedly proposed, and a so called baby-steps proposal that Donohue was proposing. The baby-steps proposal claimed a six-year simple payback.
February 2015: Donohue & Associates produces Technical Memo 4, on the “Digestion Complex and Energy Production.” The 48-page document offers the same six-year payback scenario, on page 14.
December 2015: Wastewater Superintendent Reel makes his statement about a simple payback – an estimate that he says is a conservative one (that is, that payback could optimistically come sooner):
“The simple payback on that [a waste-receiving station at $431,000] conservatively is six years.”
So, Reel is repeating what Donohue claimed on 12.14.14, and repeated in a memo dated February 2015.
Now look ahead about two months from December 2015, to the eve of a March discussion on the project, and here is what one finds.
February 2016: Just a few months later, in a memo dated 2.25.16 (and part of the 3.1.16 Common Council packet), one finds a far longer timeline for payback, amounting to between 8.1 and 13.2 years.
Here’s that document —
300. If even this small part of the program – by its proponents’ own terms a baby-steps part – carries so great a range of possibilities, and differs so much from claims repeated over a 366 day period, what other claims will prove similarly wrong?
The View from 30,000 Feet
301. If there had been no milk processing plant in Whitewater, would the city have constructed digester capacity as large as it now has, for the purpose of importing waste into the city from other locations? That is, in cases like these, would one ordinarily separate a production facility from a waste-receiving facility?