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City doesn’t want to take lead on Gallery Acres West

City: DNR not helping with water issue

SOLON– The city can’t investigate providing rural water if it doesn’t know how many local subdivisions would be interested.
And the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is apparently not very interested in helping determine that number.
According to discussions at the Oct. 18 meeting of the Solon City Council, the DNR stepped back from its lead role in determining whether municipal water could help resolve arsenic issues in developments outside the city.
For the city’s elected officials, the news brought their interest in researching the problem to a screeching halt.
“If the city’s not going to financially benefit from it, if it’s going to cost us money, if the taxpayers that have already lived here are going to have expenses because of this, I’m not for it at all,” observed Mayor Steve Stange after a half-hour discussion.
The news was related by City Engineer Dave Schechinger during his report on the projected impact Gallery Acres West and other Solon-area subdivisions could have on the city’s water system.
Back in July, the Gallery Acres West Homeowners Association officially asked the city council to consider extending water service three miles to 14 homes adjacent to the Lake MacBride Golf Course.
Council members authorized city staff to continue looking into the proposal, which included the enticement of a 75 percent forgivable loan from the state to help finance construction. Skogman Construction Co. also expressed interest in the possibility of city water related to one other rural subdivision, MacBride Pointe.
Schechinger’s report modeled how increased municipal water demand would accelerate the rate at which the city would need to increase supply through the construction of additional wells and storage.
He projected the effects over 20 years for a range of demands, from minimal change to a scenario serving over 7,000 customers.
After completion of the water system evaluation, Schechinger felt it was appropriate for the DNR to notify homeowners in other rural subdivisions which could potentially face the same regulatory problems as Gallery Acres West.
Once associations had information about the requirements for arsenic levels in water supplies and discharge, he said, they could decide whether or not they are interested in the city-supplied solution, and the city would have a better idea of how many people it would be serving.
“After several discussions with DNR, it became apparent that they weren’t interested in taking the lead on this,” Schechinger said. “In fact, we kind of got the idea they just wanted to be available for questions, didn’t necessarily want to stir things up too much out there.
“So this has gone back to we really don’t know how big of a problem this is,” he concluded.
Council member Steve Duncan said he was disappointed for the residents of Gallery Acres West, who were “back to square one” without the city as a possible solution.
Stange described the DNR as pushing for the city’s involvement, a sentiment with which Duncan agreed.
Council members held a general discussion on the topic, including whether the Poweshiek Water Association (a rural water distributor serving 11 counties) could still help Gallery Acres West with a solution; and whether Lakecrest Manor, a subdivision currently treating its water supply for arsenic, had been brought into the conversation.
In both cases, Schechinger responded it was felt the city should not be taking the lead responsibility in promoting the project.
“We’re probably back to where our first response was,” council member Steve Duncan said. “Our first response was we’re not interested.”
If the DNR is not willing to step forward and lead, he said, there’s no point in engaging in further conversation.
“We’re not going to take the lead on it,” Duncan said.
“If you have no interest in proceeding,” Mayor Steve Stange told council members. “Then I think we’re done.”
Despite the waning support, council members decided to go through with a previously scheduled work session on the subject, scheduled with the DNR for Tuesday, Oct. 24.