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Our Opinion: A time for celebration

March 21, 2001

On Thursday the city of Brawley will celebrate the grand opening of its water treatment plant. The city deserves to celebrate after a long period in which the plant was more of a problem than a solution to the city's need for more water capacity.

The water plant was controversial from the start.

In the early 1990s the city was informed by state health officials it had to improve its water quality. The City Council decided it would be more cost-effective to build a new plant rather than rebuild the existing plant.

Thus began years of work to determine how and where to build a plant and how much it would cost. In the mid- to late 1990s problems occurred that divided both the council and residents. First, it was learned the plant would cost more to build than anticipated. Then there was a movement to remove two council members, Steve Vasquez and Daniel Paramo, for leading the charge to build a new plant. That effort was followed by a movement to remove Councilwoman Jo Shields for her effort to have the council look at rebuilding the existing plant.

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Those movements ended almost as quickly as they started and problems seemed to dissolve as Brawley officials found by splitting the water plant project into pieces that could be contracted out to different companies the city could save money. It seemed to work.

But the problems weren't finished. One of the contractors, Cornerstone Construction, walked away from the work it was doing on the water and sludge ponds following a payment dispute. Cornerstone sued the city. The city then filed its own lawsuit against Cornerstone. Despite all that, work on the plant continued and in March 1999 the plant was ready for testing.

That's when a new problem erupted, along with a new legal battle. The plant's water and sludge ponds had cracked. The city determined it would have to spend more than a $1 million to correct the problem, which it did. It took a year, but by summer 2000 the city started producing potable water at the new plant.

Now, two years after the original grand opening celebration was to occur, the city is ready to have another grand opening. Now that Brawley has more water-treatment capacity, growth can and should occur.

We don't know if the decisions made by city officials were always the best, but city leaders did what they thought was right in regard to the water plant. Brawley is better off because of the efforts of city leaders to get the new water plant built.

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