Posted 10/27/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
While the standpipe on ND 40 north of town has never been usable as a city water supply, it may benefit rural residents north of town.
Richard Liesener, chairman of the R&T Water Board, said the facility may be utilized for their “rural buildout.”
R&T is a member of WAWSA and supplies water to Tioga and surrounding rural customers.
Liesener said a reservoir will be needed to serve the customers north of Tioga, and it makes sense to consider the standpipe as possibly serving that purpose.
“In the interest of utilizing infrastructure that is already there, we thought we could take a look at it,” Liesener said.
The Western Area Water Supply Authority contacted Tioga Mayor Drake McClelland, who is also on the R&T Board, to begin discussion on selling or leasing the facility.
McClelland declined to discuss any details with the WAWSA representative until he discusses options with the city commission, which he did at the regular commission meeting two weeks ago.
“The options are to keep it, sell it, or lease it, right?” asked Commissioner Heather Weflen.
Ameritech, which was bought out by Ackerman-Estvold, designed the standpipe a few years ago. The reservoir is not high enough to provide the pressure to serve city residents to the south, and that prevents the water inside from cycling completely.
“Then we start running into the possibility of bacteria,” said McClelland.
The standpipe was built, in part, to satisfy another phase of development in the north part of town, which never came to fruition.
Before continuing discussions with WAWSA, McClelland also wanted input from the city attorney on whether the city can pursue any such agreements while legal options to recoup the investment are being explored for the defunct project.
While the project was paid for with state and federal grants, the issue is a concern among some residents as well, who feel someone should be held responsible for the costs to taxpayers.
Who is responsible for the problem is a question the city is still trying to answer.
“That’s what people want to know. We have a big blunder here and then we’re going to build another one,” said Wayne Knutson, a resident of Tioga, referring to the new tower that’s going up next to the high school.
City Attorney Ben Johnson advised the commission that discussions with WAWSA on leasing or buying the facility would not create any problems should the city pursue legal action down the road.
Antonio Conti, senior civil engineer with Ackerman, is currently looking into how much the city paid for the tower. Commissioner John Grubb said this will provide a baseline from which the city may start negotiations.
That leaves the commission with the question as to whether or not they should lease or buy the facility.
“I’m open to both suggestions to get some use out of the thing,” Grubb said.
Johnson suggested the city would be better off selling the facility to free it from any future maintenance obligations.
If you lease it, “then it’s just your headache,” Johnson said.
The commission agreed and gave McClelland the go-ahead to discuss sale options with WAWSA. The commission took no official vote on the issue and only reached a consensus on how to proceed with discussions.