Editor’s note: Bayview resident Sheryl Puckett has reproduced a column by Colleen Dahlseid and supplied her own views on Dahlseid’s statements.
Colleen: I sat in solemn disbelief last week at the Timberlake Fire District Commissioners meeting, as Commissioner Robyn Edwards voiced her “agenda” to outsource our EMT services.
Response: It’s fine to disagree and debate the issues but let’s keep to the facts and drop the drama.
Colleen: Those of us who love and live in rural areas know that the backbone of our communities is the loyal, dedicated and hardworking people who provide our emergency services. Timberlake Fire’s EMT services are exemplary and valued and cherished by our district’s community.
Response: Timberlake is very fortunate to have a dedicated staff and additionally fortunate to have had Chief Steele bring a very high level of leadership to the district. We are indeed fortunate to have good people at all levels. There are serious issues challenging the district that are not a reflection on the professional staff, substantially related to funding and growth in the district.
Colleen: Living in Bayview and having experienced Robyn Edwards’ bent for “outsourcing” critical services as Director Edwards on the Bayview Water and Sewer District, I can give you a little history of her “results.” The BWSD had existed for more than 40 years with qualified in-house staff who provided 24-hour service, relatively low water and sewer rates and a financially sound district with savings in the bank.
Response: The previous years of so called “qualified in-house staff” operations let the BWSD slip into a state of critical disrepair. The new board is cleaning up this mess and has had to make tough decisions concerning an outdated system in need of repair.
In December 2011 the old board raised water rates from $11 to $21 (90 percent) and water base rate went from 10,000 gallons to 5,000. You believe only the new board has raised our rates and you’re wrong.
If we were to avail ourselves of fact, it should be noted that two “in-house” employees had already chosen to leave their employment many months before Ms. Edwards joined the board.
Colleen: Once Director Edwards began her campaign under the guise of “concern for our financial resources” — the same line she used at the Timberlake Fire meeting — BWSD now has outsourced all water and sewer operations, our rates have increased and our service has decreased.
Response: They “outsourced” to Athol (not India) 8 miles away. BWSD hired a qualified water management company that serves our community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
BWSD new board raised our water rates $3. Three dollars! That’s all.
Ms. Edwards was not a board member then and opposed this increase as a citizen.
Please don’t speak about the old board if you didn’t attend the meetings.
Colleen: We have an out-of-town private contract operator who answers the phone and calls out-of-town service providers at exorbitant costs.
Response: Integrity Water Management is doing a fine job. Bob Kuchinski attends all the monthly meetings, providing us with thorough reports. It’s true the previous operator lived in Bayview, BUT he still had to call Athol (Shane McDaniel) if he needed backhoe digging and he still had to call Athol if he needed a tank pumped, which was the case most of the time. Historically, contractors have been “outsourced.”
The costs are not exorbitant; prices are on average across America. BWSD always tries to use local help but if necessary for a specialized requirement then they might have to use an out-of-town company.
Colleen: Although Ms. Edwards will tell you how much she has “saved” the district, they are rifling through the savings accumulated by the prior board and we are out of compliance with our DEQ permit.
Response: A letter from DEQ dated May 1 states, “At this time, the incomplete records are in violation of the reuse permit, however, DEQ is confident these issues will be adequately addressed by the operators.”
According to a conversation with DEQ Jean Felker recently, “I would think every water system has been out of compliance at some point.” According to Chris Westerman, “BWSD was out of compliance in 2011 and 2012.” That was the old board.
Previous “in-house staff employees” cleaned out the BWSD’s “savings,” taking massive vacation payouts, which had never been accounted for by the previous board, thus leaving the BWSD district with less than optimum savings reserves needed to make these necessary repairs.
Colleen: If that isn’t enough, Ms. Edwards is now the most vocal proponent of a $2.8 million proposed revenue bond that will tax our little district of 400+ residents with rates that will double our existing water rates and potentially drive many of our elderly residents on fixed incomes from their homes.
Response: Ms. Edwards is not alone in proposing this $2.8 million bond revenue. There are four other Timberlake Fire commissioners who are all in favor.
The new BWSD board, along with JUB Engineers, have identified and addressed these system deficiencies (such as leaking 50 million gallons of fresh water a year), and will be educating Bayview customers and discussing four options to correct these situations, which will ensure safe, reliable water service, now and well into the future, helping to preserve the value of the homes in Bayview.
Colleen: Let there be no mistake, if Commissioner Edwards is not stopped, we will end up with a “private contractor” providing the most critical services to us and our loved ones, coming from some distant place with no dedication or affiliation to our community.
Response: The other commissioners can vote against her. Please stop singling out one board member when there are three more BWSD directors.
Colleen: These private contractors will be profit-driven and if they don’t like the insurance we have, we will most likely be left to fend for ourselves. Commissioner Edwards’ agenda to outsource is insidious, relentless and power-driven with no regard for the well-being of the district’s residents. She must be stopped.
Response: The BWSD is proposing a bond revenue that every registered voter can vote for or against. It’s called democracy. You’re destroying your own credibility by exaggerating and distorting facts and confusing the issues with two different board agendas (Timberlake Fire and BWSD).
Colleen: I am urging all Timberlake Fire District residents to start attending the district’s commissioner meetings. Make your voices heard! Let the other commissioners, and Commissioner Edwards, know how we value these lifesaving services and the dedicated individuals who provide them.
Response: Agree, attend meetings, be informed, listen to all sides and make decisions based on facts, not vindictive personal attacks.
Colleen Dahlseid is a Bayview resident.
Sheryl Puckett is a 40-year Bayview resident.