Posts Tagged ‘City Of Ferndale’

Ferndale is less than 10 miles from a Border Crossing

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Capture radius map

You may not know it from this map showing 10 mile radius circles from the four Whatcom County border crossings, but trust the City of Ferndale when they say that Ferndale is located within 10 miles from a border crossing.  Ferndale must be within 10 miles of a Border Crossing or the City wouldn’t be able to ask voters for a penny/gallon Border Area gas tax and trust me, when it comes to grabbing money, the City of Ferndale knows how to cross the T’s and dot the I’s.

So it’s lucky that the City of Ferndale has a long narrow section in their city limits that reaches way up north past Grandview Rd, right up to the end of a dead end road that likely sees very few Ferndale vehicles and likely even less Canadian vehicles.   But that little spit of city limits is enough for the City to claim that they are legally entitled to this gas tax despite the fact that Ferndale is commonly known to be further than 10 miles from the border.

Realize that the City claiming eligibility to justify the Border Area Gas Tax doesn’t mean that just Canadians will be paying the tax, everyone who buy gas at the Pilot or likely the AM/PM on Grandview will be paying more at the pump.

Vote No on the Gas Tax, it’s just not right, and it’s just not right for the City of Ferndale to game the system.

 

It’s the water, and a lot more

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

That’s what we got up in Ferndale during the last year, water and a whole lot more.  That is a lot of minerals, scale, bad taste, maybe some manganese, calcium…a lot like Olympia bear of old, but better tasting than that tin can beer of yesteryear for sure.   I live in Ferndale, though not Ferndale proper so I get the city water but can’t vote for or against those who make the decision about what water is delivered to my tap.

I’ve wished that I had the time to write a proper blog post, but as of mid last week I hadn’t yet found the time.  So when I read that Ralph Schwartz was in the midst of writing an article for the Herald I contacted him to make sure a couple of the point I wanted to make would be in the article.  From talking with Mr. Schwartz I got the impressions that he had done an investigation into the causes of our current situation and that the City of Ferndale had realized that they needed a different engineering firm due to the failings of the firm that had set up the system.   I read the article today and I was disappointed to read that I was apparently wrong on both impressions.  The article Ferndale officials never saw water problems coming was so fluffy that it may have well been written by the City of Ferndale.  And the way my part came off was that I was more worried about my coffee pot than the health and well being of my fellow citizens…ok well if you know me that isn’t that farfetched, but I do stand more worried about my fellow water drinking citizens than my sticky kitchen faucet.
The City of Ferndale did make a mess of the situation and I can see a lot of red flags that were overlooked or underplayed leading up to our mess.  I won’t delve into conspiracy theories like the good water going to wash down coal dust at the new terminal or the mayor with a plumbing firm creating this mess to increase business.   I don’t hold any person or firm up as a not wanting to do the right thing.  I do think that all of the red flags need to be looked at to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again.  What I want to do, since I don’t have time to do a proper post is to start this post as a listing of things that I find, or have found that pertain to our our current situation.

I’ve got about 15 different points that range from why the water problem should have been expected, to how hardness effects cooking, to additional consumer costs from hard water and even to the dance that is being played with our health.   I will be updating the list with more and more points as I find the time to write the little bits.

Point 1 and I’ll start the bar pretty low.  There is more in the water than just bad taste and if you made your own pizza dough you would know that.  Even if you let your water stand to let any residual chlorine off gas, hard water will still toughen the dough and increase rising times.

Point 2 – Often when things don’t turn out as planned, people start pointing fingers.  Sometimes they point to blame and sometimes they point to avoid blame.   Such is the case with Ferndale’s new well water.

The consultants have been pressed to explain why the water has been so much harder after the switch. It could have to do with the unusually dry summer and greater-than-usual water use by farmers, they said at a Sept. 17 council meeting.

Bellingham Herald: Ferndale officials never saw water problems coming

I was at that City Council meeting.  While the council and many others were murmuring their agreement with the RH2 representative pointing fingers at the dry summer I was Googling precipitation figures because even though we had had a few recent hot days, I had no recollection of an overall  long dry summer.  As it turned out, when I looked at the rainfall for the 6 month period leading up to the dry summer comment, I found that 2012 was one of the wettest periods in the last decade only to be bested by 2011.
Capture 6 month accumulated precipitation leading up to Sept meeting
So why point fingers at the dry summer?   Because the dry summer, if it existed, was an easy target.  It couldn’t defend itself and it could point back at anyone leaving the finger pointers safe from blame.  However, if the dry summer had fingers, I’d guess they’d be pointing their middle ones at RH2 and the City of Ferndale.

The people of Ferndale need the problem solved and the first step to finding a solution involves accurately assessing the problem and it’s causes, not finger pointing.

Point 3 –  The Herald article I referenced above is titled Ferndale officials never saw water problems coming and I wonder why not?   In the article the City of Ferndale says they didn’t expect water this hard and their engineering firm RH2 says they weren’t looking for it.  So, why not look at water hardness when making a major change from river water to well water?  You don’t refinance a home and not have an expectation of what the new interest rate will be and you certainly expect your home loan specialist to look at the rate. Why not have the same type of expectations when you are restructuring your water supply?

It’s seems almost inconceivable that the City didn’t really have expectations for water hardness, but it’s conceivable to me that an engineering firm, which is trying to make a profit, would try to do the minimum required in order to minimize costs and maximize profits.  So I wondered what the City really asked for and I wondered what RH2 really looked for?  That question led me to a pilot study that the City of Ferndale contracted with RH2 in October of 2009, just after RH2 presented the results of their feasibility project.

RH2 deliverables

Calcium and magnesium are the major players in water hardness so it appears the City, whether they knew it or not, was looking for hardness.   And if RH2 delivered on the deliverables then they were looking for hardness whether they admit it or not.   Obviously I wondered what the results were of the testing and comparison to previous reports, but I couldn’t locate them online.  I just sent off a public record request to the City of Ferndale for these deliverables so we will see shortly what the City of Ferndale and RH2 could have known about potential hardness issues.  Meanwhile Point 4 will certainly be written before the public records are available and it will point to a couple of red flags waving over the hardness issue from long  before the pilot study.

Point 4 – Red flags waving in the wind.  The introduction to the City of Ferndale Water Supply Feasibility Report contains this chart, so I would assume the Mayor, the City Council and all other decision makers would have studied it prior to their decision making.

capture feasability chart

This chart show the state of the water coming out of the ground at both wells that we are now receiving water from.  This represents the water in it raw untreated state and would be used in decision making about what types of treatments would be needed.

Red Flag One – Which numbers go with which well?  are they combined?  Oh, well maybe it’s the first two columns for Douglas and the second two…OK, that’s not really a red flag, but WTH why not label things.   BTW I found the same chart in the appendix and the first two measurement columns are from the Douglas Well and the other two are from the Shop Well.   The actual first red flag, in this chart depicting levels of contaminants of concern, was the absence of magnesium and calcium from the chart.  Were the major players in water hardness not tested or were they not presented and in either case, why not?

Red Flag Two – Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) There apparently was a lot more stuff in the water back in 94 and 99 then there was in 07 and oddly both wells were over the limit and now they are not.  In the case of the Shop Well the newer reading is about half of the older which should be a red flag all on it’s own.

High TDS may indicate hard water, which causes scale buildup in pipes and valves, inhibiting performance. Since TDS is related to water hardness, using a TDS meter can be your first step in determining the degree of hardness of the water. Generally speaking, the higher the level of TDS (ppm), the higher the degree of hardness.

Premier Water Test Instruments

Red Flag Three – TDS again.  TDS is related to water hardness, but because not all of the things in the water contribute to directly to hardness, there is no exact correlation, but the correlation is pretty darn close.   The following chart is from Xylem, a company that deals with water quality issues and it gives a pretty clear indication that the water supply was in the Hard to Very Hard range.  Oh, and those aren’t water temps in the 3rd column, they are French degrees which is a way of measuring hardness.

Capture hardness conductivity tds

Red Flag Four – Conductivity.  It’s the stuff in the water that conducts electricity, not the water itself and a couple of the biggest movers in this department are our hardness favorites, magnesium & calcium.  So looking back at the data we see numbers from 504 on up to 948 which clearly lands our raw well water in the upper end of the hardness range with our primary well, the Douglas Well, in the Hard/Very Hard category.

Between TDS and conductivity, if City officials didn’t see the hard water issue coming down the pike then they weren’t paying attention.

Point 5  – Sodium – Sodium and Chloride go hand in hand.  What we normally call “salt” is actually sodium chloride (NaCl) and when dissolved in water its splits apart into sodium and chloride.   There are other contributors of chlorides in well water, but sodium chloride salt is the big contributor.  If you look back a couple of charts you will see that both sodium and chloride are present in higher levels.  The chlorides are also a bit of a red flag not because of the overall level being harmful, but because in the primary Douglas Well the 1994 level was 175 and in 2007 it was 56.  One reason why we should care about this was actually pointed out very nicely by RH2 in their report to the city.

the level of chloride indicating saltwater intrusion is 100 mg/l.  The Douglas Well was measured to have Chloride levels of 175 mg/l in 1994 and 56 mg/l in March 2007.  The Shop Well has chlorides present as well, but they are lower than 100 mg/l.  However, the conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) levels are high enough to present some concern.  It is obvious that there is influence from a source of salts in both of these wells.
The DOH will most likely require frequent monitoring of chlorides if these wells are placed into service.  And if chlorides do rise over the threshold of 100 mg/l, there use may be reduced or curtailed seasonally so that seawater intrusion is reduced.

“curtailed seasonally” means that the well may be unusable to us at certain times of the year because it is being refilled with saltwater from Puget Sound rather than fresh water from our NW rains and mountain snow.  What this also means is that to maximize output from the wells the sodium levels in our water will always be an issue.  Couple that high sodium water with hard water and you have a potentially serious health issue for some Ferndale residents.

For normal, healthy persons, the amount of sodium in drinking water is a minor contribution to their total dietary intake of sodium. However, for those people who must restrict their salt intake to control certain medical conditions, sodium in drinking water can be a major concern. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a recommended concentration of 20 milligrams per liter (mg/1).

South Carolina Department of Health

RH2 appeared to be on top of this issue and even referenced the EPA 20 mg/l number as guideline level, but I’ve yet to see any commitment to hitting that number 20 mg/l versus riding the 100 mg/l well shutdown level.

As a consumer we should all be worried about high sodium levels in our water, but we should be doubly or triply concerned if the City delivers high sodium water and chooses not to treat the hardness issue at the system level, leaving the individual consumer to deal with the hardness.   Typical home water softening systems work by swapping our hard water friends calcium and magnesium for….wait for it… wait for it…sodium.   Yes, if you treat your already sodium rich hard water at home you are probably adding even more sodium in the process and the harder your water, the more sodium you will be adding.

If you’re on a diet that calls for very little sodium and you’re concerned about the amount of sodium in your softened water, talk with your doctor. He or she may suggest testing the sodium concentration of your water or switching to a type of water-purification system that doesn’t replace magnesium and calcium with sodium.

Mayo Clinic

It’s true that compared to a Big Mac the amount of sodium we might have in a glass of treated water might seem like very little, but stopping at a fast food joint is a bit more of conscious choice than turning on the kitchen sink.  And having high sodium water in your home means that you will be hit with a constant unending barrage of additional sodium.  Sodium water, sodium coffee, sodium Kool-aid, sodium water for cooking, sodium ice cubes, there will be no getting away from it, so even the small amount will continue to add up.

Research shows a dose-dependent relationship between consuming too much salt and elevated blood pressure. When salt intake is reduced, blood pressure begins decreasing for most people within a few days to weeks. Populations who consume diets low in salt do not experience the increase in blood pressure with age that is seen in most Western countries.

CDC – Center fro Disease Control and Prevention

We have already switched to the 3 gallon refillable water jugs at Haggen, but so far that is used mostly for drinking.  We may need to upgrade to 5 gallon jugs unless the City of Ferndale treats our hard sodium rich water at the system level.  Anything less than that is what I would consider a step backwards.

Point 6 – Is the solution really that simple? Wait and see.

Burwell and City Council member Jon Mutchler have both said the solution is simple. Owners of appliances should follow recommendations for how often to clean and maintain them, to avoid stains or potentially damaging mineral buildup.

“There are many municipalities across the country that have much harder water than we do, and they live with it,” Mutchler said in a Dec. 20 interview.

Bellingham Herald: Ferndale officials never saw water problems coming

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 2: How small towns like Ferndale contribute to the decline of our nation.

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Original Post Feb 20, 2012

“I have long been concerned by the ability of our nation’s runaway spending and debt to weaken our national security, and now we are starting to see the real consequences.  The President’s failure to tackle our debt is killing our economy, weakening our national security and threatening the very essence of America’s exceptionalism.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

And it is happening at the grassroots level here in Our Town, USA.   In Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 1 , I explained why I was against a new road tax because the City had spent the current tax money on other projects and was looking toward the public to once again bail them out.   But the problem with their spending and other towns like them across the nation runs much deeper than a few tenths of a percent tax.  It’s their chronic overspending that is helping small towns like Ferndale contribute to the decline of our nation.

Currently the City of Ferndale is smack in the middle of improving Main Street between 3rd and Church Rd.  The project has no geographical challenges such as river crossings or challenges such as rail tracks.   The project isn’t adding more traffic capacity, no new intersections and the road as it is driven today would hardly be described by any Ferndale residents as a pressing transportation need.   Yet, the City of Ferndale is spending about $8.4 million dollars on the remodeling of just over 1 mile of roadway.

main 3rd to church

For perspective Everson is reconstructing just about 1/2 mile of Mission Road at the same time this spring that Ferndale is completing the second 1/2 mile stretch of our Main Street project, but while Everson will spend $575,000 for a widened road bed, shoulders and a sidewalk, Ferndale will spend about $4.4 million on a road that includes  two normal traffic lanes, a turn lane, two bike lanes, two side walks and a planter strip.

Why is Ferndale spending so much more money on their roads than other towns like Everson and more importantly, where are they getting the money?

Why Ferndale is spending so much is a tough question for a simple blogger, but I lean towards shopping addiction rather than the big truck little *&^_#  reason which may come to mind for some.

New research reveals while some super-shoppers spend to boost self-esteem and band-aid other perceived internal deficits, others’ carts are driven by plain-old materialism. Whatever the motivation, however, researchers mostly agree that buying behaviors can range from frivolous fun to serious addiction.

LiveScience: The Truth About Shopaholics

With a mayor and seven council members there probably are more reasons they overspend, but there is only one place they get the money for road projects; we the taxpayers.   We pay with local  taxes and fees on gas, property, sales, trash, water, sewer etc, but the problem with shopaholics is not that they spend money it is that they spend money on things they want rather than things they need and they often overspend on credit rather than living within their means.

That is the same problem I see with Ferndale and other small towns across our nation.  They are spending on things like landscape strips, bike lanes and roundabouts while other roads go without repair and maintenance.   And if other small towns are like Ferndale they are also racking up city debt as well as relying on State and Federal funds to feed their shopping addiction just like Ferndale.   In a recent Herald article, Mayor Jensen, when referring to several recently completed road projects, said,

State and federal funding have helped to make these projects successful.

Success is often a relative measure though. In this case Mayor Jensen seems to equate project completion with success.   Let me explain why I disagree by using a current example from Ferndale’s 6-Year Financial plan 2012.  Here’s a clip of financing for some of the current Main St. – 3rd to Church Road Project.

 

acct 308

As you read through all of the various loans and grants it takes to fund this project, remember that no matter what it is called or where it comes from, ultimately all of the funding comes from we the taxpayer.    So, in the case of Federal grant funds the project successfully added more debt onto an already unprecedented national debt.  In the case of State grants funds the project was successful at putting our landscape strips and bike lanes into budget competition with necessary things like schools, parks, law enforcement etc.  How dumb is that?  Then there is the way that cities like Ferndale play with finances so they can pry even more state and federal money away from us.

Reconstruction projects are costly, but funding from a TBD may allow the city to use some of that funding to further leverage additional state and federal grant revenue.

Transportation Benefit District Sales Tax Election

Wait a minute.  So some of that local tax that was touted as for road repair will actually be used to lever even more state and federal money out of our pockets?   Does that count as a success?  I guess that would depend on who has the lever and who has the pocket.

I like landscape strips and bike lanes as much as the next person, but more local debt, more state budget problems and an increased national deficit sounds like a nation in decline, not success.

 

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6/26/12 Update: A couple of articles hit the Bellingham Herald over the last week or so which just reaffirms that at least the City of Ferndale doesn’t get it when it comes to overspending.

FERNDALE – A once-rural road now inside the city limits will be upgraded to city standards, complete with sidewalks and bicycle lanes, even if it means taking strips of property from unwilling property owners.

…the city is counting on future grants to fund part of the $5 million project. But the amenities seemed extravagant to some of the residents who spoke at Monday’s council meeting.

“While this project is necessary and long overdue, it should not be a lavish undertaking,” said Janella McKay, a Church Road resident. “Making it an affordable street should be a top priority.”

Overspending and arrogance on the part of the City administrators doesn’t reflect well on the people who elected them.  I don’t think the average person in Ferndale is of the borrow from Peter to pay Paul variety, yet that is what the City is doing to support their spending.  I think it’s a bit scary to find such a close similarity between this description of  the new transportation tax in Ferndale and a description of a common internet scam.

Ferndale transportation tax:

Based on recent sales tax collections, the city expects to raise $300,000 a year for road improvements. That amount will be used each year as seed money to attract larger amounts in state or federal grants.
Source: Bellingham Herald

Internet scam:

Most of these scams involve you supplying seed money, or disclosing confidential data used to deplete your savings account. While these cons are usually recognizable and safely ignored, enough suckers are fooled to make the effort profitable for the criminals who have no fear of legal retribution.

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9/16/12 Update: Just a bit of follow up as the Church Road project approaches..

The City has also applied for grant funding on that project, Radder noted.Councilmember Goodrich wondered if there are any specific strings attached like a specific timeframe to spend the funding or matching funds.

Radder said that there will be required matching funds, and the City intends to use Transportation Benefit District funding as that match.

Ferndale City Council meeting September 4, 2012

As they said  new tax revenue from the newly formed Transportation Benefit District will be used as seed/matching funds, not to just repair Church road, but rather give it an extreme makeover and put the taxpayers in extreme debt.   And again, not saying that anyone in the City of Ferndale is doing anything illegal, just wrong and a little bit on the underhanded side.   I sincerely mean that and here is just another example.  This is the first sentence you read at the City’s Transportation Benefit District page

The Ferndale Transportation Benefit District is designed to preserve and maintain the City’s transportation infrastructure.

I challenge anyone to look at what is going on on Main and Church Streets and call that “preservation and maintenance.  Voters hear “preserve and maintain” while the City hears the sound of seed money.

 

 

 

 

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 1

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

A recent Whatcom View article titled  Mayor says Ferndale tax increase needed to repair roads can be credited with offering sufficient irritation that I found the time to again write in this blog.

Recently the City of Ferndale has been emphasizing and funding extreme street makeovers like the Second Ave Extension, including the useless park next to a rail yard.  Now the Mayor says that funding is “woefully short” for basic road maintenance and repairs so the must ask the voters for a two-tenths of 1% sales tax increase.

Anyone who has driven on the hill in Ferndale knows that there are roads that need repairing.  That fact is not in doubt.  Even so, I can’t support this tax increase because a tax increase is not required to afford the repairs.   Rather, the City needs to get back to focusing already available funds on repair and scheduled maintenance of existing roads so that we get maximum life from them.  It was while attending a City Council meeting that I first heard mention of  a time in the last few years where funding for street repairs was cut.  The Mayor didn’t mention it in his letter, but it was briefly mentioned in another Herald Article.

Malpezzi said he voted against putting the increase request on the ballot because he didn’t believe the public would support it.

And he said the issue was one of priorities, noting that money that would have come from the solid waste tax to pay for street maintenance and repair has instead been shifted elsewhere, referring specifically to help pay for a new police station.

capture suspend maintenance fundingRight on both accounts!  I don’t think the public will support the increase and It looks like it could have been in 2009 that funding for road maintenance was  suspended, though I’m not a financial expert so I could be mistaken.   However, even an amateur review of Ferndale’s current budget and budgets for the last 4-5 years shows that overall revenue from property taxes, sales taxes and various utility taxes have steadily increased and are projected to keep steadily increasing.  Let me repeat that since that is not what you hear from the City officials or read in the news, overall revenue from property taxes, sales taxes and various utility taxes have steadily increased and are projected to keep steadily increasing.

What I also determined during my quick review,  was that what the City refers to as  a revenue shortfall in the road repair budget  is simply the negative effects of excessive spending, excessive borrowing, misguided priorities and what amounts to a financial account shell game where the council and mayor regularly “tap” funds from one account for use in another often unrelated account.  I was actually amazed at the the amount of  fund “tapping” going on in the City government.   Am I the only one who didn’t know that our Solid Waste Taxes have been systematically inflated, not for Solid Waste disposal, but for leveraging loans and/or state and federal grants for new streets or perhaps a police station. Don’t believe me?

SWT funding If you read the rest of this Request for Council Action don’t miss the list of annual 1% tax increases on the second page.  it’s quite a long list of increases that adds up to so much more revenue than this little two tenths of 1% business.

So really this boils down to the fact that the City of Ferndale does not need a tax increase to repair roads.  The have plenty of revenue to fund street repair without a sales tax increase.  Sadly, instead of taking care of business, they’ve gone the route of shuffling things around, using the money elsewhere, doing the extreme makeover thing and then coming back to the people with a sob story.  Call me cruel, but I say no to the tax increase the same way I say no to the hungry kid crying for more lunch money because he bought candy with his on the way to school.

Sorry, but No!

And I hope you make a better choice next time.

Coming up

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 2: How small towns like Ferndale contribute to the financial decline of our nation.