Longview City Council narrowly approved a more than $200,000 deal to give the city’s troubled water supply and possible alternatives another cross-examination at its meeting Thursday night.
Mayor Don Jensen voted to break the tie to approve the contract.
The up to eight-month-long “scope of work” — which is similar to an estimate at an auto shop — is the first step to either finding a new source for Longview’s water or fully embracing the 20-month-old Mint Farm wells that have caused persistent concerns about taste, smell and silica content among some households.
Councilwoman Mary Jane Melink said she thought it would be treading old water when the city has already spent so much looking at other options.
“We’re dancing the same dance we danced before and I don’t expect a different outcome,” she said.
The study will kick off with community outreach — including a scientific survey to determine the level of the problem among residents — and a council-appointed committee to track progress. The second half of the project will be reviewing the costs and feasibility associated with getting water elsewhere.
Representatives from the engineering firm, CH2MHill, said they would work to put “puzzle pieces together to see what is acceptable for the community.”
As the timeline is written now, recommendations wouldn’t come until March. But the City Council was assured it could change the timeline and even cut the contract short — the $217,256 is the most the city is on the hook for.
Council members Melink, Ken Botero and Tom Hutchinson voted against the contract; Councilmen Steve Moon and Mike Wallin, who introduced the plan, and Chet Makinster voted for the contract.
Hutchinson said the cost couldn’t be justified, and he offered to approve only the survey to start to better identify where in town the problems are.
Makinster was concerned about the city’s ability to go back to the Cowlitz, since dredging the river would require approval from state and federal agencies. Since that would be addressed in the study, he decided late during the discussion to vote for the contract.
Moon was unusually animated in his insistence that the issue has to be addressed now, despite imperfections in the scope of work.
“There hasn’t been a day I haven’t been pulled aside and asked, ‘What are you doing to fix the quality of water?’ ” he said.
A handful of residents spoke about their continuing distaste for the new water, with some favoring the new study — many not — and others telling the Council to go back to the Cowlitz River, period.
Brooks Johnson covers Longview city government, Cowlitz PUD and Lower Columbia College for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.