In a yearlong debate fraught with emotion and distrust, we’ve been reluctant to pick sides as the Frankfort Plant Board has butted heads with city commissioners, planners and Tanglewood residents over the best option for replacing a decrepit water reservoir.
Unlike the players in the debate, we ascribe no sinister motives. We believe the Plant Board acted in good faith in identifying the most cost-effective option for ratepayers. We believe Tanglewood residents have legitimate concerns about the effect of a replacement reservoir on neighborhood aesthetics and, in turn, property values. And we believe city elected officials, appointed planning commissioners and professional planning staff had sincere reasons for declaring FPB’s preferred solution incompatible with Frankfort’s master plan for zoning and development.
Compromise is elusive when parties to a dispute all believe firmly in their positions. It gets harder when each side insults the other with assertions of ulterior motives.
So count us appreciative of Plant Board Directors Stephen Mason and Dawn Hale for their public attempt at peacemaking this week, even if they were outvoted. In short, it’s time for all parties in this high-stakes flap to give a little, find a solution for a new reservoir and end litigation that could drag out for years, costing ratepayers and taxpayers astronomical legal fees and putting the city’s drinking water supply at risk should the existing, 140-year-old reservoir fail.
Mason’s motion, backed by Hale, would have offered city officials and neighbors a slightly smaller alternative to the 7-million-gallon tank preferred by the Plant Board. Immediate reaction from the mayor and city commissioners, as well as the Tanglewood Neighborhood Association, suggested that the olive branch might have been well received.
Said Mason: "Our community needs a new reservoir now, but we've been at an impasse for almost a year and that's not good for Frankfort and Franklin County. I am happily in support of the 7-million-gallon tank. I think it is the best and most efficient option, but the impasse forces me to take a more pragmatic view of our current situation. Concession for the good of the community is the operative word."
We offer a tip of the hat to Mason in a debate that, from the beginning, has lacked statesmanship on all sides. Frankfort needs more statesmen like Mason.