A popular narrative around the Frankfort Plant Board’s Tanglewood water tank controversy puts the blame for expensive and time-consuming litigation on the so-called “Roach commission” — a reference to the city commission’s 2018 vote to side with Tanglewood residents in the squabble.

That might be a more credible assertion if the 2019 city commission, featuring three new members, including two who ran on an anti-Robert Roach platform, had put itself on the record in the controversy. Six months after Roach left the city commission, new Commissioners Katrisha Waldridge and Eric Whisman, whose supporters are pushing the “Roach is to blame” narrative, have yet to tell citizens where they stand. If Roach is to blame, here’s a simple solution: Make a motion to rescind the 2018 vote and side with the Plant Board.

That’s unlikely to happen, because it’s politically easier to let former commissioners be the scapegoat than to take a principled stand.

An end to litigation that could drag on for years, delaying installation of a much-needed replacement reservoir, will require leadership and statesmanship from both the city commission and Plant Board directors.

The politics surrounding the controversy have become toxic to the point that neither side trusts the other and citizens aren’t sure whom or what to be believe. FPB says the city commission has put political pandering to a single neighborhood above the interests of an entire community of ratepayers. A city commissioner says FPB’s defense of its plan is propaganda. Even the plan itself is flawed and premised on false data by FPB's engineering hired guns, Tanglewood supporters assert.

Here’s a solution. The city commission and FPB could jointly select and pay a completely independent engineering firm — one from several states away that’s never done business with either entity — to put fresh eyes on reservoir options and make a recommendation that balances the interests of ratepayers and Tanglewood residents. The two boards would agree up front to abide by the objective engineer’s recommendation. Citizens, who to date have been told they can’t trust either side in the argument, would welcome such an unbiased opinion to put the feud to rest for once and for all.

Money to hire the mutually-agreed-on engineer would be a much better use of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars than years of legal fees to reach a conclusion whose legitimacy would still be questioned.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The State Journal. His email address is steve.stewart@state-journal.com.

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