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Ongoing sewage spills demand WCC Board Action

How many raw sewage spills does it take to get the WCC Board of Trustees to take action? For the second time in as many weeks, a broken sewage line and an accompanying sewage spill have closed the campus. I have no idea how much it costs to close the campus, but seriously, enough is enough.

To date, the Washtenaw Community College Trustees have refused to demand accountability from the WCC President for maintaining the campus infrastructure. That means they’ve elected to retain that accountability for themselves. Fine. The taxpayers should hold the Trustees accountable.

Is this the product of a mostly non-resident college administration who commutes to Washtenaw County to spend our tax dollars for us? Is this the result of having a $300,000 maintenance budget? Washtenaw County taxpayers should be asking themselves who created this budget, who approved it, and who thought it was a good idea.

As in, “names please.”

It isn’t hard to assess the condition of the infrastructure on campus. As a matter of fact, the College is required to file a report with the state on the status of its infrastructure every year. Someone puts their eyes on the facilities – at least on paper.

From a practical standpoint, how hard is it to run a camera down every single sanitary line on campus every year to assess their condition? And once the line hits a certain age – maybe 10-15 years – inspect more frequently?

Lift stations – the alleged culprit in the first sewage spill – have a life expectancy of 5-10 years. So… after that period, can’t we all just agree that a lift station is on borrowed time? Rather than borrowing time, how about just replacing it as a matter of … I don’t know… prevention? Good stewardship?

Sewage spills could jeopardize accreditation

I’m not an expert, but I don’t think $300,000 buys a lot of maintenance for a 1.2M sq. ft. campus. Clearly, there are certain things you just can’t put off.

If all this maintenance is too extravagant, closing campus for three days to clean up two different sewage spills cannot possibly be more economical. It’s certainly not safer. And it makes the campus look bad. After all, WCC is in a rich community, right? (I don’t live in a rich community. Is it typical for rich communities to have shit spilling all over the place?)

The WCC Trustees owe the taxpayers of Washtenaw County a full explanation regarding the state of WCC’s sewer system. We send more than $60M per year to WCC for operations. Maintenance is part of operations, and we have adequately funded WCC’s operations to pay for necessary maintenance. Instead, we have open, flowing sewage on campus, and yet another egregious breach of the public trust.

Further, failure to maintain the infrastructure on campus is a violation of the terms of WCC’s accreditation.
From the Higher Learning Commission:

“5.B. The institution’s resource base supports its educational offerings and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.

The institution has qualified and trained operational staff and infrastructure sufficient to support its operations wherever and however programs are delivered.”

The takeaway here is that failure to perform maintenance can have a deeper impact than closing the campus for a few days. Chronic lack of maintenance can impact the school’s accreditation, which has a whole avalanche of negative consequences.

The Trustees cannot continue to give a pass to the Administration they hired. It is time to hold the Trustees accountable for their poor decisions.

Photo Credit: redteam , via Flickr