Ashland Council “Afraid” of the Whistleblower??

Statement to City Council Business Meeting – October 1, 2019; After this statement the Director of Public Works stated that the plans were okay. She was one of the staff who testified against the whistleblower. The whistleblower was vindicated unanimously in federal court by a jury of his peers and the city’s appeal that another judge dismissed. Why won’t the council hear from the whistleblower in public when it may safe millions of dollars or not?

We know more about whistleblowers than we ever knew before because of what is happening nationally. We also know that Ashland has its whistleblower. He has not been called upon to tell his story.

This whistleblower is a certified engineer who wrote a letter to the city administrator and city attorney about the new water treatment plant which resulted in his being fired.  He sued the city of Ashland in federal court and a jury of six unanimously supported his case against the city.  Even though the city appealed the decision, a judge dismissed the appeal.  All of this is public information.   He has yet been called upon to tell his story.  

In his letter, the whistleblower outlined his concerns and his remedies for the plans of the new water treatment plant. This council should hear from him during a public meeting.  Two of his concerns also concern me because they remain unanswered by staff. 

            First, the selection of the site for the new plant needs a more careful vetting which means an indepth Geo Tech LIDAR analysis including soil analysis by a certified geo engineer.

            Second, the alternative of upgrading the current water treatment plant needs to be compared to plans for the new plant at each stage of planning.  Here is why these two should be held in contrast; the current plant is good to go for 20 additional years with upgrades costing $6 million; the new plant will provide 3X the water needed now at a cost of $36 million.  Let’s keep this comparison before the public.

Delaying the decision for final engineering plans seems prudent for these reasons:

  1. An updated water master plan is needed; it was supposed to be completed in the summer of 2018 and decisions should wait until the plan is completed.  A big picture is essential before committing to a $36 million water infrastructure project.
  2. According to staff reports, Ashland’s growth in 20 years will increase 5,000-10,000, so let’s begin plans for a new plant in ten years when there will be more residents to pay for its expense.  At least, discuss the idea with all new data gathered including the master plan.
  3. Two commissions, Conservation Commission and Climate Policy Commission, are asking for a delay because a comprehensive report on the materials and construction carbon foot print must be presented before going forward.

I request that the council hear in public from the whistleblower.  I also request that the final engineering plans for the new water treatment plant be delayed.

Submitted by Carol Voisin, Ashland