Sound Off: Navy’s proposal would be unfair to city rate payers

“We are negotiating amongst partners who want to get to an equitable agreement.”

I am sure that most of Oak Harbor citizens agree with this statement made by Capt. Matt Arny, commanding officer Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, in his Whidbey News-Times “Sound Off” on Feb. 29.

Arny implies that the city and Navy are negotiating partners who want to get to an equitable agreement for the Navy to connect to the city’s new sewer treatment plant. An equitable agreement will be one where the parties have equal benefits and each pays their proportional share of costs for the use and operation of this facility.

In May 2019, the Navy requested that the City of Oak Harbor provide a cost proposal for four options to hook-up to the new sewer treatment plant. As requested, the proposals were prepared with supporting data by the city’s consulting engineers. Since this information is time sensitive, as the costs and data can fluctuate as time passes, the Navy was given until the end of 2019 to evaluate the four options and reply with their choice.

The Navy provided a counter proposal dated Feb. 24, 2020, which was submitted without any cost data supporting their counter-proposal. Their proposal would clearly leave the city’s rate payers subsidizing a large portion of the Navy’s share of costs. This is not an equitable proposal for the city and its rate payers.

As a city councilman during the past 12 years, and being knowledgeable of the development of this new facility, I strongly suggest that the mayor and council withdraw from any further negotiations until the Navy provides a new counter proposal that is equitable and supported by cost data that truly supports their proportional share to hook up. An equitable share should not have the city’s rate payers bearing the Navy’s burden.

In deliberating, the mayor and council may want to consider that in 2013 the Navy declined to participate with the city in the construction of a new treatment plant. This situation left the city with little option but to forge ahead with a new treatment facility, without the Navy’s participation.

The current plant was not designed to treat the Navy’s sewage flow without upgrading the facility. While the Navy has options, future construction costs, environmental risks and regulatory rules can be expected to make their options more expensive.

The longer they delay, the more expensive their options become.

Entering into an equitable agreement with the city could be a win-win for the city, the Navy, the rate payers, and the taxpayers. We are negotiating partners, so let’s get to an equitable agreement, sooner rather than later.

• Rick Almberg served as an Oak Harbor City council member from 2008 to 2019.