The negotiations between the City of Ontario and the Snake River Correctional Institution has been an ongoing issue for many years, including a comprehensive feasibility study that was conducted in 2017 by Jacobs, the City of Ontario’s Public Works Department. The study showed that the amount of wastewater produced by the prison was problematic for the size of the SRCI Lower Lift Station, which serves the prison exclusively.
“Is this the best contract we could get? I don’t know. But it’s a fair contract,” this was the assessment by Public Works Director Cliff Leeper at Thursday night’s City Council Work Session about the new agreement between the city and SRCI .
City Engineer Betsy Roberts joined Leeper at the podium in discussing the new contract, saying, “We feel good it fairly represents both parties.”
She also said how everyone involved in the negotiations were “feeling very comfortable [with the contract].”
Roberts told the City Council that it was crucial for the city to take some kind of action regarding the lift station because “if something wasn’t done” then the DEQ “would say you’ve known there was a problem.”
The issue of repair costs came up once again with concerns over which entity, the city or SRCI, was going to pay for what repairs if there were any that needed to be made. Roberts said, “It was a little gray before,” indicating that one of the most sensitive portions of the negotiations was deciding where the responsibility to pay for any potential repairs happens to land.
To clarify the potential costs incurred by repairs, City Attorney Larry Sullivan said, “If repair costs [outweigh] what’s in the budget” then the city would be negatively impacted. If this were to occur, according to Sullivan, it “opens it back up” for renegotiation.
Mayor Riley Hill expressed reservations about the equipment saying, “We got an aging system, not a system that’s brand new.” He said information being presented was “projections, not facts.” Hill said that he would prefer if the city would seek a 10-year contract versus a 20-year contract.
Before the city council prepared to vote to accept the new contract, Sullivan added, “This has been a long and painful negotiation … And you’ve been paying me a lot to do it.”
The motion carried to approve the new contract with Hill being the single no vote responding with, “I still think we’re making a mistake by going for twenty years.”