Imagine Tacoma – Baracking for Dollars

With the news this week that a bevy (gaggle?) of the Tacoma City Council were flying to DC in hopes of lobbying for Federal Funds from the incoming Obama Administration, it does get one thinking about what local public infrastructure priorities would be most appropriate to be recipients of our increased National Debt?

Murray Morgan Bridge, et al:
Repair and restore this connection and the other important bridge connections throughout the City and the Port of Tacoma.

Sounder Connection:
When Sound Transit was originally floated before voters in 1996, it was on the premise that the commuter rail portion of the system would use and upgrade existing rail lines. That premise was changed once the engineering was applied to the Sounder Connection through the Dome District to Lakewood and now a new rail line is being designed (boldly going where railroad tycoons of the 19th Century dared not or failed to tread). To comply with the City of Tacoma Comprehensive Plan, this new connection is required to be designed appropriate to the urban context and be specifically designed to foster economic development for the properties adjoining the rail right-of-way. What better place to invest public funds then to assure that this rail line connection is a 100-year solution that can strengthen the urban connection of the Dome District to the Downtown Core (and not divide it)?

Central Wastewater Treatment Plant:
Does it not scare the ‘crap’ out of everyone that the City of Tacoma declared a State of Emergency last week because of concern that flooding was going to compromise the City’s Central Wastewater Treatment Plant? Seems we need an upgrade to this facility as an incredibly higher priority than building a platinum LEED research facility to study ways to reduce urban pollution.

Complete Streets:
Complete streetscurbs, gutters, sidewalks, storm water system, buried utilities – for ALL of Tacoma. Start construction simultaneously Downtown and the Mixed-use Centers, working down the major arterials and then to all of the streets in Tacoma.

So what are your infrastructure ‘blank check’ priorities for Tacoma?

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RR Anderson

Argh!  now if I do a tacoma bail out cartoon i’ll look like a johnny come lately. 

<span class=“caps”>EVEN</span> SO-

Mr. Boe, please consider joining <span class=“caps”>THE</span> <span class=“caps”>CLAW</span>. Else you will at some point be made an honorary member!

January 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

David Boe   or   Shel Silverstein ?

January 15, 2009 at 7:50 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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crenshaw sepulveda

Love Shel, sorry he is gone.  And remember, “never bite a married woman on the thigh”.

January 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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“Complete Streets […] for <span class=“caps”>ALL</span> of Tacoma”

<span class=“caps”>YES</span>, can we <span class=“caps”>PLEASE</span> have some basic necessities taken care of before we start any more pet projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these pet projects the City has going – it’s exciting and definitely worthwhile.

But come on, it’s like buying a $60k <span class=“caps”>BMW</span> while the roof of your $20k double wide trailer home is collapsing in on itself. Let’s buy that metaphorical $80k bungalow down the street first (read: bring our existing infrastructure up to par) and then move on to saving for that ultimate driving machine.

January 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Job training & labor force for rehabilitation & greening of dilapidated buildings, including public buildings, commercial, nonprofit, residential, all.

Rehabilitation of the Gulches. (& train naturalists, arborists, etc.)

And, beyond Tacoma:

Complete the light-rail, SeaTac to Tacoma … to U.P.?

Dedicated high-speed passenger rail, Vancouver-Eugene.

January 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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<span class=“caps”>YES</span>! To everything above. But I can’t make out the tiny type in the comic…

January 15, 2009 at 9:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Sidewalks! Sidewalks! Sidewalks! …and crosswalks so you can safely go from sidewalk to sidewalk.

January 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

If we can just get the potholes on N. 4th fixed.

Some days it’s just so bad that I’m tempted to go buy my own asphalt and patch it myself.

January 15, 2009 at 9:36 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

#6 – Small type:  Architectural type chap says “So RR, it it too late to get da bumpers up?”  Fez wearer responds “Oh not for us *#%! $@?” cartoonists.”  Bottom line clarification reads:  “With Sincere Apologies to the Cartoonist League of Absurd Washingtonians.”

January 15, 2009 at 9:43 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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<span class=“caps”>PLEASE</span> stick with the basics!

#1 – Sidewalks and Curbs everywhere.

#2 – Underground Power/Cable/Phone

#3 – Fix some potholes

These improvements will increase property values, provide good wages, prevent lawsuits/blackouts/flat tires and will last for decades.  Just <span class=“caps”>PLEASE</span> don’t attach these contracts to union labor so we get 50 cents in value for every dollar we spend.

Every time I hear about another government building going “green” I get a gag reflex.  I’m all for protecting our environment but give me a break.

Putting a photovoltaic grid or wind turbine on a roof may make you feel warm and fuzzy, but the payback period on most of these modifications go way beyond the life of the improvement.

The city needs to start running itself more like a business.  Do an actual cost/benefit analysis before squandering more of our future national debt.

Props to Eric Anderson for having our elected leaders in DC.  If Barack is giving away our money, at least our little piggies are first in line at the trough.

Side note:  I can’t be too critical of the City of Tacoma because they are 10 times better than most other cities when it comes to fiscal responsibility.  (but they’d still be bankrupt if they were a private business).

January 15, 2009 at 10:22 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

“green” is just a buzzword. I even heard the talking heads on <span class=“caps”>KIRO</span> this morning come out and say the the gov’t basically says all “green jobs” are just construction jobs using more efficient materials. That’s it.

“Green Jobs” = newspeak for “build more houses and high-rises”.

January 15, 2009 at 10:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Complete Streets. 

Tacoma looks bad because of it’s lack of curbs, sidewalks, trees along streets, power-poles everywhere… the “un-prettiness”, I’m sure, prevents those people with the means/ability to renovate and invest in our fair city.

Maybe a streetcar line from Tacoma to Point Defiance and one on Tacoma Ave/downtown.  I dunno.  Tacoma streetcar has some good routes on thier website.

…but I <span class=“caps”>LOVE</span> those <span class=“caps”>LID</span> projects!

January 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

The Tacoma Electric Railway <span class=“caps”>LID</span>

to better enhance the lives of the citizens of Tacoma.

Actually, let’s also do a streetcar also to thumb our noses at ST… prove we don’t need their chronic under-representation in Tacoma to get anything done.

January 16, 2009 at 12:11 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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As the one who said “green” first in this thread, let me explain that I’m not talking wind turbines, and I’m certainly not talking ripping stuff down to put up new stuff.

As historic-preservation folks remind us, “greenest” building is the one that’s already built. I like that. But energy efficiency via windows, insulation, higher-efficiency heating, those pay back the investment in a decade of utility use, yet so many owners still can’t afford the investment.

The trade unions and the voc-tech schools are equipped for training; contractors, both small and big, are aching for jobs; if employing trainees were to be a part of the contract, they’d jump. At least, it’s worth exploring, I think.

January 16, 2009 at 1:05 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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John Sherman

If the City of Tacoma is successfully with new capital ‘Taxpayers’ money found and delivery from the Federal or State governments; it follows, after those ‘Taxpayers’ money are all spend, gone forever, and the new operational-expenses begin for what has been constructed by these capital ‘Taxpayers’ projects, so where does the money come from to keep all these new ‘Taxpayers’ operating once constructed during future years?

I think this

Maybe somebody might suggest, or have an opinion,  how these capital projects will provide money returned and a profit to the ‘Taxpayers’ investments funded by an Obama Administration bail-out?

January 16, 2009 at 1:29 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David: Thanks for the translation, my eyes aren’t what they used to be.

Thorax@8: So what’s stopping you?

January 16, 2009 at 5:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Two reasons:

1) $… asphalt is expensive, it turns out. Like $500/ton expensive. And that’s just for the straight asphalt… without any of those rocks and sand they put in it.

2) I have no clue as how to actually go about it

January 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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T.O’T… Asphalt is a lot cheaper with the aggregate in it. ($130-$140/ton).

I’ve filled up my pickup numerous times at Tucci and Sons to fix the holes the city should be filling on my street.

Although, I must admit the guys in the tower at Tucci are rude to begin with, but when you’re waiting in line between a dozen Dump Trucks, they get even more annoyed (and let you know it).

January 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Did a little talking to some friends of mine both at <span class=“caps”>USOR</span> (That refinery in the Port of Tacoma that happens to make 90% of the asphalt used in the state) and at Woodworth… it seems that 1 ton of straight liquid asphalt will yield typically somewhere between 4-6 tons of asphalt with aggregate in it.

Apparently they only put enough in with the rocks to keep it all together.


But how sad is this? Here we are, taxpayers and we have to patch the potholes on the streets out of our own time and money. I mean. we’re freaking the highest taxed part of the Nation and we have to patch the asphalt ourselves?

I know it’s complicated and costly to run a city, but geeze louise! How hard is it to keep up on maintaining the streets?

Any city employees in the know reading this blog? I’d like to know why our streets are so damn holy.

…and just saying there isn’t the $$$ doesn’t cut it.

January 16, 2009 at 4:11 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Wait… idea just struck me.

If the city is too short on manpower/$$$ to get the job done, why not have some sort of Civic Duty program?

If you spend the $$$ and time to patch potholes on your street, how about the city giving you a tax credit in the cost of the materials?

Considering equipment and wages, I bet that $50 worth of asphalt you used would have cost the city $300.

Actually, that is a pretty good idea… potholes get patched faster, it only costs you your time, and the city saves $$$.

January 16, 2009 at 4:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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David, your list is good. My two cents:

1. Street Improvements (potholes, dedicated bike lanes/trails, sidewalks, buried utilities)

2. Streetcars and/or expanded bus routes (more routes and extended hours).

3. Wastewater Treatment (Side note: I have multiple friends that are actively searching for work right now. I found it interesting that two of them, who don’t know each other, tested for the same job at <span class=“caps”>COT</span> Wastewater Mgmt last week. One of them has an extensive background in construction and the other has a masters degree in geology. Tacoma needs more job opportunities!)

4. Wildlife Habitat Restoration (gulches, creeks, wetlands, urban forests, Puget Sound) 

5. Farmland Preservation

January 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

you’d have people claiming tax credits on other people’s pot hole filling.  You’d create a subculture of pot hole filling corruption… this in addition to the white collar political corruption actively not filling potholes.   

No the “final solution” is to do nothing and wait for peak oil to make road infrastructure meaningless.

January 16, 2009 at 8:04 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The last thing the city is going to agree to is a civic duty program.  It was just a month ago or so that they refused to let people <span class=“caps”>VOLUNTEER</span> to ticket cars illegally parked in handicapped spots because the unions balked at the idea.  Heaven forbid we take advantage of people who are willing to volunteer for a noble cause.

Nope, instead we opt to pay for three additional parking enforcement officers for 50-60k a year so the union bosses are happy.

If one of those <span class=“caps”>SOB</span>’s found out I filled the potholes on my street and took an hour away from the dues he could collect, I’d be checking for a horse head under my sheets before going to bed. 

No chance this could happen with the union stranglehold on our city leaders.

January 16, 2009 at 8:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

EK you’re a vigilante pot hole filler and I think that’s bad ass.  GO <span class=“caps”>TEAM</span>!

January 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Forget going through the city.

It’s legal to buy asphalt.

Your neighbors likely won’t complain about potholes getting filled.

Let’s just do it.

January 17, 2009 at 3:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

yes! yes!  it’s time to take matters into your own hands. 

Filling potholes is the ultimate form of civil disobedience.

January 17, 2009 at 4:19 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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J. Cote

Basics, Basics, Basics. Upgrade and bury all utilities. Curbs, gutters and <span class=“caps”>USABLE</span> sidewalks built to <span class=“caps”>ADA</span> standards on <span class=“caps”>ALL</span> streets. Agree with those that have said fix what you have before working on pipe dreams. Streetcars are <span class=“caps”>NOT</span> the answer. Our current bus lines are underutilized as it is. <span class=“caps”>BTW</span>, we <span class=“caps”>HAD</span> a streetcar from DT to Point D. It was scraped for under use.

<span class=“caps”>LID</span>’s need to go the way of the dodo.Are you aware that they are funded by using 1/4 of our State Gas tax dollars? If we had that money going to repair streets instead of paving alleys and buying fancy streetlights, maybe, just maybe the streets wouldn’t be in such disrepair.

January 18, 2009 at 4:25 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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First off if the city of Tacoma wants to do something worthwhile they should award EK some sort of medal.  There are times I actually take my 3/4 ton 4×4 pickup when working in Tacoma.  It’s better suited to handle the punishment the streets hand out than my nice ride.

Second, hey let’s get those ugly utility poles removed and put them where they belong. <span class=“caps”>UNDERGROUND</span>!

Hard to sell a $400,000+ home with a view that is obstructed by transformers and cables. Take advantage of the superior views Tacoma has and bury those suckers.

Third, Totally agree with the sounder connection.  This has long term benefits to the entire area.

Fourth, With the 11th street connection to NE Tacoma severed at Blair waterway, why are we rebuilding the Murray Morgan?  Let’s organize a large block party for this summer and Kingdome it.  National news for Tacoma and their aggressive efforts to revitalize Tacoma.

January 18, 2009 at 9:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Houses without solid gold floors, platinum bathtubs and epic 180° views of the Sound shouldn’t cost $400K. Maybe if it’s 5000 sq feet or like 8 bedrooms, but that’s about the exception.

We don’t have enough six-figure jobs in town to support those prices.

If telephone poles and potholey streets help keep prices closer to reality, then I will gladly stop bitching about them.

January 18, 2009 at 11:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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J.Cote@27: You said; “Upgrade and bury all utilities. Curbs, gutters and <span class=“caps”>USABLE</span> sidewalks built to <span class=“caps”>ADA</span> standards on <span class=“caps”>ALL</span> streets.” and then said you don’t like <span class=“caps”>LID</span> projects?

That IS a <span class=“caps”>LID</span> project my friend… minus trees and lights.

January 19, 2009 at 1:06 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

We should plant trees, <span class=“caps”>LID</span>s or not.

January 19, 2009 at 1:57 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Wait…. back tot he topic on hand.

Why should the City go beg for a hand-out from Uncle Sam? This is federal tax dollars, we’re talking about. I certainly don’t want to pay for potholes in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; why should Wiscasset, Maine pay for the budget transgressions here in T-Town?

The further increasing dependency on Uncle Sugar Daddy for $$$ isn’t going to solve jack. It just makes the national problems worse.

As I see it, this is a chance for T-Town to be a model and step up to the challenge. Balance our checkbook. Fix potholes. Get <span class=“caps”>LID</span>s going. Encourage development. Get rid of parking requirements. Basically, make it on our own within our own budget and resources.

Cut city council and the mayor’s pay. Cut out excessive costs. Outsource to the private sector whenever cheaper. Do not rely on “ever increasing” property taxes to make ends meet (that’s leading to many municipal bankruptcies in SoCal and <span class=“caps”>FLA</span>).

Point being: We are a city of 200,000+ and growing. We have an extremely valuable and busy port. We can work to siphon off of Seattle’s white collar jobs with lower taxes and rents. We have 2 military installations. We have a nationally-famous candy company. We have an international investment firm (for now, at least). We have Atlas Foundry. We have a large refinery. We have the <span class=“caps”>MOG</span>. We have a ton of other stuff I don’t have room or patience to mention. There is no reason why we can’t function financially on our own.

January 19, 2009 at 4:06 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tora! Tora! Laura!

You go, Thorax!

January 19, 2009 at 4:26 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Douglas Tooley

I’ll put in another one for the gulches, greenspaces, etc.

Tacoma has a strong base of volunteers in this area with a great deal of expertise.  Leverage that community spirit and experience by providing funding for High School Students and recent grads to do the work – costs at minimum wage with very minimal overhead are low and benefits are high.

Don’t forget also State funding – Gregoire is currently heavily penalizing Pierce County and its road projects even though we are leading the way with tolling.

January 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Gotta grab that Fed-cash when you can get it Thorax.  Otherwise it wil go to Oshkosh, Wisconsin instead of us.

I get your point though… the problems we talk about on here should have been handled all along. 

But, how do you propose doing so much <span class=“caps”>MORE</span> with <span class=“caps”>LESS</span> revenue?  It seems more income = more money for the city to do things and less income = less money for the city to do things.  I just don’t think the city has had the money in the past to stay on top of these things and the political climate here is very anti-tax at all costs… including investment costs with huge returns for the city… and I’m sure the city doesn’t waste as much money as people assume they do.  It’s just a tough situation… that’s why so many cities are in the same boat as us.

January 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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IF we are being basic, flushing your toilet and not see it float down your street is basic as it gets.  Wastewater treatment is valuable, but forgotten need for all cities who want to be healthy, and have a healthy enviroment.  Curbs, gutters,etc. are important, but not seeing condoms and you poop in the gutter is more important.  And by the way, being a wastewater treatment operator is skilled position that you want trained people to do, not some geed off the street!!!

January 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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John Sherman

tct@36: You seem to have Municipal Public Utilitie(s) defined utility ratepayers services confused with those of ‘General Government’ services delivered; since utilities have a simple solution ‘the ratepayers’ and with ratepayers defined services cost for delivery of services; for example, wastewater, surfacewater, solidwaste, power, water; it follows, without any sort of ratepayers cost limit limitation imposed ever; it follows, what ever a Utility Board approves for rates becomes approved for ratepayers charges, so that means: what-every the cost becomes to deliver the Utility(s) services to ratepayers customers; therefore the Utility(s) just pass-on the cost on to the ratepayer to cover the cost of service delivery. No money short-falls ever.

But, General Government, like City of Tacoma, must rely upon limited ‘Taxes’, ‘fees’ and ‘assessments’ which most are limited as to what can be taxed to the ‘Taxpayers’, so things will not be flowing down-the-streets anytime soon because the Citizens Utility(s) ratepayers fess will just-go-up to prevent that from happing ever.

January 20, 2009 at 12:41 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax, I didn’t see any homes listed in the mls with solid gold floors, platinum tubs and epic 180 degree views.  But I would suspect they’d be a bit higher than $400,000. Potholes or not. :)

You could make the same argument about the prices at el goucho, but people still buy their steaks.

Now what about that bridge?  The city could sell it for scrap down in the tideflats and it would return in a year or so as a new fleet of Kias.  A “green” move that would make Albert Gore proud.

January 20, 2009 at 2:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

@ Jesse…

It’s mostly about streamlining, and reducing excess costs. Granted, the $$$ may not be there for every last project.

But the whole point is for the city to budget itself and operate on what it makes for once.

January 20, 2009 at 6:00 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Burying utilities fills the first forty-nine slots on my list of fifty priorities for city spending. The last one is to fix the streets and sidewalks. Imagine how gorgeous our city would be with no wires in the sky. Or ugly poles. <span class=“caps”>OMG</span>!

January 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Kaleenka: You’re right.  The city needs to take out the sky-trash.  I’ve never seen so many powerpoles in my life before moving here.

January 21, 2009 at 11:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mr. Sherman:

Even though ratepayers pay for the upgrading of <span class=“caps”>WWT</span> plants, wastewater treatment is just taken for granted. Since this little blog is about upgrading infrastructure, The Central Plant is good place to put some $ bills @!

January 23, 2009 at 5:23 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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