Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
The phone rang on Jack Musgrave's desk. He put his feet down, and leaned forward to pick it up. "Waste Water Treatment Plant," he answered.
"How's it going, Jack?" the voice in the phone said. Jack realized it was Don Kutzley he was talking to.
"Pretty good," he said. "Plant's running smooth, right now."
"You got a few minutes so we can go someplace and talk?"
"Sure, Gary's here, he can keep an eye on things," Jack said. "I'll be right up."
"Not here," Don said. "Let's go someplace. I'll come down and pick you up."
"Whatever you say, Chief," Jack said, wondering what was up. "I'll be here."
A few minutes later, Musgrave was standing outside when Kutzley drove up in his recycled police car. He got in the right side, and Don started out of town. "Who have you been talking to about the retention pond?" Kutzley asked.
"I haven't talked to anybody, except the engineers," Musgrave said.
"Well, I just got off the phone with Mike McMahon," Don said. "He said someone he knows saw you out with that crew that was taking soil borings out on 427, and he wondered what the hell was going on."
"I didn't tell anybody outside of the engineers," Jack reiterated.
"Mike smells something, I can tell you that," Don said.
"He's going to smell quite a bit," Jack said. "That area down the hill from his house is the best site they've found for the retention pond."
"I don't want to have him on my case," Don said. "Jesus, he got the manager of the road commission fired after that series of columns he wrote on how they're wasting money, and I know for a fact the real reason he was pissed off with the road commission is that they didn't grade the road past his house."
"Hey," Jack said. "You've got to figure that he's going to find out sooner or later."
"The later, the better," Don said. "The closer this thing is to a done deal, the less time he'll have to react. I don't want to have to go through with it at all, but if we don't get some sort of a ruling or waver or something from the EPA, say by the end of the year, we're going to have to do something. Either go through with the separation project, or the retention pond, so we've got to have both the projects pretty well pulled together, pretty soon."
Jack realized that was where they were headed -- the possible site of the retention pond. "Have you got a report back from the engineers yet?" he asked.
"Yeah, it came in the mail this morning. Something like five and a half to six million."
"That's a million more than the separation," Jack observed.
"Yeah, every penny of it. Just from a cost viewpoint, I'd rather we went through with the separation, but I don't know if we're going to be allowed to, not while the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are trading memos, but not making a decision. The thing is, we can probably go ahead with the retention pond, but not without a lot of flak from McMahon."
"It'll be more than flak," Jack replied. "You must not have looked at the plat out there very well."
"What do you mean?"
"Of the site, about two thirds of it is owned by Binky Augsberg," Jack said. "Mike owns the other third."
"Jesus, you're just full of good news, today, aren't you? We could get it through eminent domain, I suppose."
"Not without a fight," Musgrave said. "I don't think Mike has a lot of money, but he's good friends with Colonel Matson, and he's not exactly your greatest fan. He could keep this tied up with lawyers for years, if he's of a mind to."
"Why the hell is it," Kutzly said, "There's only the one site within miles where we've got enough clay to be able to come up with a good seal for the retention pond, and it's the one site that will get both the local newspaper and the local moneybags pissed off at us?"
"It wouldn't be a heck of a lot more expensive to build it out back of the plywood plant," Jack said. "True, it's more work, but I think Clark would go along. He's kind of between a rock and a hard spot, as the Mayor."
"It's only about a million and a half more expensive," Don said. "Somehow, this lousy snake has turned a three million dollar project into a seven and a half million dollar project."
"It'd be cheaper to operate in the long run," Jack said. "It costs money to be able to pump that far, with the kind of volume we're talking about. There isn't exactly a lot of fall, and you'd have to pump it back from the 427 site, too."