Thumbs up: Tumwater
Every penny counts in state and local government these days. That’s why it is encouraging to see that the City of Tumwater is working to replace hundreds of light bulbs at City Hall with more energy-efficient bulbs that will save the city about $500 a month on its power bill. The project is pricey – about $175,000. A large chunk of the money will come from a $135,000 energy block grant, with the remaining $40,000 from city funds. The old lights do not meet state energy standards. A crew from Olympia-based Betschart Electric Company Inc., began the month-long project last week, taking out about 250 fluorescent lights and replacing them with high-efficiency bulbs, though fewer are needed because the replacements are brighter. The upgrades include occupancy sensors that will automatically turn lights on and off and a so-called “day lighting” feature in the lobby that will detect natural light and turn off lights if sunlight fills the space. Throughout the process, the city has relied on its partnership with the Washington State University Extension Energy Program consortium. From initial assessments to grant assistance and construction management, the program has helped Tumwater work through issues where it lacked expertise, said Bob MacKenzie, manager of the plant operations support consortium. It’s a good project resulting in less energy consumption and a savings – albeit over an extended number of years – for the City of Tumwater.
Thumbs down: Scams
There are reports that the first money-raising scam following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan was up and operational online within two hours of the catastrophe. South Sound residents must make sure that their hard-earned dollars are going to legitimate rescue efforts such as the American Red Cross or World Vision. But our warning today is about a couple of phone scams that local authorities are concerned about. One scam focuses on residents throughout the country who might have civil fines they need to pay. Callers say the victim has a civil judgment and owes the court money. To avoid a visit from police and arrest, the victim can provide the caller with a prepaid credit card number or send a money order. Don’t fall for it. It’s a rip-off. The second scam involves people trying to pass themselves off as state Department of Revenue employees. They are calling businesses in Washington and trying to trick them into dialing an international number that will charge them for the call. Revenue employees do call businesses that have fallen behind on filing their state excise tax returns. Those businesses are asked to call the state’s toll free hot line at 800-631-4028 and are not directed to a second, international number. All of us work too hard – as residents and business owners – to have scam artists separate us from our money. Don’t be a victim.
Thumbs up: Henderson Project
The project to install a sewer under Henderson Boulevard is nearing completion – finally. The project is more than four months late and was beginning to look like some of the botched road projects that have plagued the city of Tumwater in previous construction seasons. Tim Richardson, Henderson project manager, said the sewer-main work should be complete by the first week of April and the final asphalt patching and roadway work should wrap up the following week. Active Construction of Tacoma got a contract from the city for up to $800,000 to complete the project after the city terminated the original contractor, Ro-Con Equipment Specialist of Black Diamond, for defects in its work, particularly depressions in the sewer pipe in which sediment could gather. The city also claimed the contractor was not responding to issues in a timely manner. Ro-Con is protesting its termination. But the good news for motorists who use Henderson Boulevard is that the end is in sight and the headaches, detours and traffic delays will soon be a distant memory.
Thumbs down: Kalakala
Steve Rodrigues’ dreams have always exceeded his ability to deliver. His ownership of the MV Kalakala – a 1935 ferryboat – is problematic because the boat is on the verge of sinking in Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Jeff Barney, Bay Patrol director at the environmental watchdog group Citizens for a Healthy Bay.
The aging ferry was listing until pumps were brought in recently to force water out of the 276-foot ferry. Rodrigues, who bought the ferry in 2003 for $135,560, has championed several creative ideas for restoring and marketing it – including turning it into a convention center at Olympia’s Percival Landing.
That idea – and others – have gone nowhere. U.S. Coast Guard officials better monitor the Kalakala closely because if it sinks it will cost a lot of money to refloat it and it will block commerce in the waterway.