Posted 9/22/15 (Tue)
By Cecile Krimm
You could call it a watershed moment.
Members of the Burke Divide Water board Thursday signed a joint powers agreement with Williams Rural Water, effectively bringing to a close seven years of effort to establish a regional water source for Divide County.
“It’s hard to believe isn’t it?” asked Board Member Doug Graupe, Crosby. “We’ve been looking forward to this for so long.”
“From when we started, it’s over seven years now,” said Board President Gary Rust, Fortuna.
Leaders in Crosby originally led the charge for a regional system as a means of paying for the city’s own new water treatment system -- a plan eventually abandoned in favor of bringing water via a Western Area Water Supply Authority (WAWSA) pipeline.
“It’s turned out to be really something great,” said Graupe, one of several board members involved in the BDW project from start to finish.
“Is this our last meeting?” asked Cyndi Fagerbakke, Noonan.
As board secretary, Fagerbakke has been responsible for keeping minutes of the project as it evolved to include several different water service entities, multiple engineering firms, contractors and financial details.
“It is confusing,” she said, “and if you haven’t been working with it from the beginning you go, ‘Okay, now who is in charge?”
For water customers in the towns of Fortuna, Crosby, Noonan and Ambrose, the cities remain the contact for any water issues and water bills will continue to come from each city. In turn, Williams Rural Water will bill each city and also assumes all responsibility for the maintenance, testing and operation of the BDW pipeline.
Crosby Mayor Bert Anderson, another original board member, is confident the water system will be in good hands.
“Williams Rural Water will do a very good job for us up here,” he said.
Rust noted there is already a full time employee living in Crosby and available for dispatch whenever an issue arises.
In the end, board members are satisfied they have accomplished what was long a goal for all of the towns -- a quality and reliable water supply.
“I know I sure like the water,” said Graupe.
Fagerbakke, more accustomed to Noonan water that historically received raves for quality, said the new supply is different in some ways, “but it’s a plus, believe me.”
The board will close out its books with about $300,000 in the bank, to be turned back to the organizing entities.
The left over revenue is largely from a settlement with engineering firm Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, over what board members said was an unusable pump house, a replacement for which is paid for and nearly complete.
With a few bills left to come in, including repair costs for an excavation that caused a break outside Columbus last month, the board will have to meet at least one more time to wrap up business.
Rust would like that gathering or one in the near future to include key board members and support personnel who were involved along the way.
Board members acknowledged the contributions of Tri County Regional Development Council staff who administered several major state grants to keep the project on track.
Rust and Anderson will retain seats on the Western Area Water Supply Authority board and one or two BDW representatives will be appointed to the Williams water board.
“I’d like to serve on the water boards until all of the areas get water and that’s going to be sooner rather than later,” said Anderson, who also serves District 2 as a Republican legislator.
Currently there are only three business hookups on the lines outside of the BDW towns, but installation of residential service in the rural areas is progressing to the east of Crosby. Points to the west will take longer, with Anderson estimating it may require an appropriation from the 2017 legislature before all rural customers along the line can be served.
Because it’s a long distance between some hookups, they are not necessarily progressing on a first signed up, first served basis, board members said.
Officially, the switch over of the BDW pipeline to Williams Rural Water will probably occur on Oct. 1.