One citizen’s efforts to become informed by reading reports that he paid for
by Dan Schroeder
I sometimes get the feeling that there are two different Ogden City Administrations. Most of the administrative staff are great people who will go out of their way to help when you have a question. But as soon as news of your inquiry reaches a sufficiently high level, the door slams shut and they do everything they can to stonewall.
Case in point: I’m currently trying to learn more about the proposed water tanks on Ogden’s southeast bench, so I can provide informed comments to the Planning Commission and perhaps help others do the same. Until this month, I’ve had no trouble getting relevant information on this issue from city staff--especially from Craig Frisbee, the head of the Water Department.
Now the situation has changed completely, as you’ll see from this chronology of my experiences...
Wednesday, June 3: At its evening meeting, the Planning Commission tables a motion to grant a conditional use permit for the proposed 5 million gallon water tank at the top of 36th Street. (I was unable to attend this meeting and didn’t learn until that morning that this item would be on the agenda.)
Thursday, June 4: I call the Planning Department and request a copy of the staff report on the water tank proposal; they email it to me immediately.
Friday, June 5: Blogmeister Rudi does a little research and discovers that there was a 2005 report on the city’s water system prepared by Sunrise Engineering. This report would undoubtedly shed light on the purpose and need for any new water tanks on the east bench.
Tuesday, June 9 (approximately): I call Craig Frisbee and leave a message asking to see the Sunrise Engineering report. He returns my call promptly, and says he’ll have to look for the report and will get back to me in a day or two.
Tuesday, June 16: After hearing nothing for about a week I call Craig Frisbee again, and leave a message asking about the Sunrise report.
Wednesday, June 17: The Planning Commission holds a work session to discuss the water tank proposal. A copy of the executive summary of the Sunrise Engineering report is included in their agenda packets, and I obtain a copy from the Planning staff. At the meeting, City Engineer Justin Anderson attempts to answer questions about the 5 million gallon tank and the smaller, higher tank that is also proposed.
Thursday, June 18: Craig Frisbee finally calls me back, saying he doesn’t have the Sunrise report and that I’ll have to talk to Justin Anderson.
Friday, June 19: I reach Justin Anderson by phone and ask to see the Sunrise Engineering report and any other consultants’ reports that will shed light on some the things he said at the work session. He describes another engineering report (by Bowen and Collins) that I would probably want to see, but explains that he is not permitted to show me either of these reports unless I first file a formal GRAMA request with the city. I immediately draft the GRAMA request and file it with the City Recorder’s office that afternoon, leaving a copy in Anderson’s mailbox.
Monday, June 23: In response to my GRAMA request, Anderson provides the City Recorder’s office with copies of the Sunrise report, the Bowen and Collins report, and a third report that may also be relevant.
Friday, June 26: City Recorder Cindi Mansell informs me that the three reports are under review by the City Attorney’s office, and that the soonest I might get to see them would be Monday, June 29.
So here it is, the weekend before the Planning Commission will decide this matter, and I still don’t have the information I need to write my comments.
Of course, this example pales in comparison to the Sierra Club’s attempts to obtain city records related to the gondola proposal. We’re now two years into that process, and still a long way from settling the matter. In a few days, though, I hope to have a bit more news to report.