Shooting and missing

They are smart guys, the trustees of the Southwest Shoreline Sanitary Sewer System. They would be smarter yet to let their lawyer do the thinking, the one who realizes that shortcomings of the system may be a strong bullet point in a lawsuit the trustees are waging against he contractor who installed the system and its bonding agent.

Instead, two trustees (Chairman Anderson and Secretary Bergendoff) took a few shots at the messenger again, looking to defer criticism of themselves. They blamed us for exaggerating the problem when the system first failed weeks after it was installed. That won’t fly, not with all but a handful of residences in the district suffering system failure of one sort or another.

When homeowner Jay Butterfield showed up at the trustees meeting this week to question whether the problems are making it difficult to sell a property, Anderson and Bergendoff tried to blame it on real estate agents who don’t know the score. They said they intend to educate the Realtors.

This shot missed the target as well.

Any thinking person who takes a home tour and sees the lawn dug up for sewer problems might want the Realtor to drive on to the next open house. If a prospective buyer asks about the state of the sewer system, an honest agent must reply that it is in a state of repair (or disrepair while the trustees try to figure out what to do next). But the agent wouldn’t really have to point it out, since everyone in Storm Lake knows about it with or without this newspaper or a Realtor.

Butterfield suggested that there are real hitches to home sales because of a dysfunctional system.

We believe him.

Bergendoff, for one, does not. He says homes have been selling well in the district.

If homes were selling well, Bergendoff might not have cussed out the real estate trade.

The district’s attorney, Dave Jennett, told the board that hurdles to home sales might be compelling information in court as the trustees try to get some money out of Lessard Contractors of Council Bluffs. Lessard installed the system, and has suggested in correspondence with the district that it was done on the cheap.

A trial might show that the trustees have stated repeatedly that they wanted a lower-cost alternative to hooking up with the City of Storm Lake system that runs right past their homes. Anderson repeated Monday that the Southwest system will be superior because it is cheaper. First, to be better it must move all sewage to its treatment point. That has not occurred. A trial might show that the contractor did what he was told by the plans, which were approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the trustees.

We are told that everything will be brought up to snuff any day now. It’s the same message the board has been repeating since Day One. Everything is not up to snuff, and no amount of spin against an honest real estate agent will change that fact. Only fixing the system once and for all will put home sales back to where they should be. That responsibility sits squarely with the board.

Hunger in Iowa

Nearly a third of Iowans have personally experienced “food insecurity,” according to a poll released by the Iowa Chapter of AARP during the Iowa Hunger Summit. The poll further found that 45% of Iowans know someone who does not know where his or her next meal is coming from. Just 20% of Iowans think that food security is not an important issue for the state.

Against that backdrop we note that the farm bill expired on Sept. 30 after the old farm bill had been extended by a year due to inaction by the House of Representatives. The Senate passed a farm bill on a broad bipartisan basis that cuts conservation funding and nutrition funding. The House wants nutrition cuts 10 times larger than the Senate does — $40 billion over 10 years. The Senate consolidates the nutrition title in the farm bill, while the House divorces food stamps from the farm bill. Divorcing the two frays the fabric of the urban-rural coalition that helped support a strong safety net for production agriculture. It becomes harder to justify a generous crop insurance program (which is necessary) when you are telling House members from urban areas that the working poor and elderly can just eat cake.

It is a sin that good people go hungry in the bread basket of America — Buena Vista County, Iowa. Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ ”  Remember that quote the next time Upper Des Moines Opportunity’s food pantry shelves go bare, as they routinely do.