‘The cloud' bringing prosperity, environmental concerns to Quincy, Wash.

By: Deborah Horne

Updated:

As the birds herald spring, signs of Quincy's renewal abound.

"A new police station, brand new public library, enhanced our public parks."

Quincy City Administrator Tim Snead ticked off the explosion of building happening in the town.

"We've put in tennis courts and basketball courts," he said. "And now we're looking to build a recreation center."

Snead says years ago, people here were asked to dream.

"What they wanted to see for economic development, you know, and someone said Microsoft," Snead said. "And sure as shooting, they showed up."

In 2006, the computer giant began buying property owned by the Port of Quincy to build storage facilities for the internet data we generate and send to "the cloud."

"Was it a surprise to Quincy that it had been chosen?" Snead was asked.

"Yes, it was a big surprise," he said.

"But a very good surprise.

We were excited."

But there are critics of the growth in Quincy. They say the cloud has a very dark lining. And it's in the form of backup diesel generators designed to make sure the power never goes out. Those generators, they contend, are polluting Quincy's air.

The chief critic is Quincy's former mayor, Patty Martin.

"When they start up, without controls, they give that black puff," said Martin, pointing to a dark cloud wafting skyward. "And that was never considered in the air-quality permits until we got involved. See, you can still see it."

Martin led a tour to show the shadow she believes "the cloud" is casting over her hometown.

"I mean we were all led to believe that these diesel engines don't run except in power outages," she said.

"In fact, that's exactly what I was told by the Department of Ecology," a reporter said.

"That they are just backup generators."

"The fact of that matter is they all have to be tested on a monthly basis," Martin said.

A KIRO 7 crew saw it for themselves with the camera rolling. And the state has issued permits for more than 220 diesel generators.

"That's seven generators that will have to be tested every day, every year," contends Martin.

"I don't see any emissions from them," Snead said.

"You don't see any emissions. You don't think that they are having a deleterious effect on the environment here in Quincy?" Snead was asked.

"I don't feel they are," he said. "And DOE has said that."

By now, the sprawling data-collection centers dot Quincy's landscape.

"We've got Intuit, Sabey, Vantage, Yahoo, Dell," said Curt Morris, a Port of Quincy commissioner. "They're all here."

Morris says the companies have brought well-paying jobs, a growing housing stock, and a tax base that is 3 1/2 times what it was just a dozen years ago.

"Our port has taken the position to sell the property to the data centers," Morris said, "which then puts that property value on the tax rolls which then benefits the schools, the hospitals, all the junior taxing districts."

That puts him on, well, "cloud nine."

"Ninety-nine percent of the people will say these have been great additions to the city of Quincy," Morris said.

"And you're in that group?" he was asked.

"And I'm in that group, solidly," he said.

Solidly in the 1 percent is Patty Martin.

"There's people that don't understand why I should stand up on this," Martin said, a wry smile on her face. "You just can't trade your health, you know? You can't."

But that argument is all but lost in the cloud of prosperity now enveloping this once-struggling farming community.

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