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More time, more questions

Mayor gives council until December to decide water request for Gallery Acres

SOLON– They still don’t have answers to all their questions.
Members of the Solon City Council would like to keep looking at a request by rural subdivision Gallery Acres West to extend municipal water, but Mayor Steve Stange wants the issue resolved before the end of the year.
The decision to continue investigating rural water distribution came at a Nov. 1 regular council meeting.
“At this point it’s up to the council where they want to go from here,” Stange said, introducing the agenda item. “I think you need to make a decision on whether you want to continue to look into this or if you want to not participate in it any more.”
The city hosted a lengthy work session with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), representatives of Gallery Acres West and the public on Oct. 24, with the hopes of possible action at the next regular meeting.
But council members weren’t ready to say yes or no.
Council member Lynn Morris said she talked to residents who were interested in seeing facts about the proposal published in the Solon Economist and on the city’s website.
Morris said the citizens believed the city was planning to own and maintain the extended water line (an option, but not decided), and the city would buy farm property for the line’s route (something not discussed, but typically permanent easements are sought).
“Their feedback to me, I was not comfortable about what information they’d been given,” Morris said.
She said she sympathized with what Gallery Acres West residents are experiencing.
“These are our neighbors,” she said. “I don’t care if they’re not a block from us, but they are our neighbors.”
Council member Lauren Whitehead agreed it might help residents if a summary of the proposal was made available.
“From conversations I’ve had, people are still very confused on the details, and for that reason, not comfortable with the plan itself,” Whitehead noted.
“None of us have those answers,” council member Steve Duncan observed. “I still don’t have the answers to make a decision. Do I want to continue to talk about it for the reasons that Lynn mentioned? Certainly, you bet.”
Duncan pointed out until relatively recently, the proposal was still in committee.

The Gallery Acres West (GAW) homeowners association approached the city over a year ago seeking assistance in dealing with unacceptable levels of arsenic in the subdivision’s drinking water. The city council’s utility committee reviewed the request and declined to participate. After GAW qualified for a 75 percent forgivable loan through the DNR to help finance the construction of a water line from the city limits to the development, the city was contacted again, and this time the committee decided to bring the issue to the full council.
Two options were considered: a 3-inch service line which would serve only the 14 homes at Gallery Acres West, or a 6- to 8-inch main which could provide water to other lake-area subdivisions which may soon face similar types of regulatory issues. The cost of extending service to Gallery Acres West has been estimated at $780,000 for a 3-inch line and $981,000 for an 8-inch main.
At a July 26 meeting, council members authorized city staff to research the proposal and its impact.
Three months later, City Engineer Dave Schechinger reported his projections on the effect of adding additional water customers, but felt the city needed to know which rural subdivisions would be interested.
The DNR was asked to help with notifying the subdivision residents, but during the Oct. 24 informational meeting, Mark Moeller, a water supply engineering supervisor, said the DNR’s involvement was limited to directly working with Gallery Acres.
The engineer assisting Gallery Acres West, however, indicated during the meeting that developments treating for iron or arsenic represented about 240 additional connections.

Duncan, for one, said at the Nov. 1 meeting he was not interested in a 6-inch line to serve only Gallery Acres West.
“If there’s more to it, which I think Cami (Rasmussen) has shared with us now, there may be more interest out that way, then that piques my interest,”” he said.
“I’m willing to continue conversations on it,” council Mark Prentice added, noting the GAW grant would allow for the construction of an 8-inch main to serve other subdivisions. He suggested bringing the Planning and Zoning Commission into the discussion.
Council member Shawn Mercer, attending the meeting via digital connection, questioned whether the subdivisions could join together to form a separate water district, and also asked if GAW homeowners discussed water treatment with residents of Lake Crest Manor.
Chad Coburn, executive director for the Poweshiek Water Association, said there would be nothing to stop them from setting up their own water system if need be.
GAW president Mark Steiger noted he met with Paul Deaton of Lake Crest Manor regarding that development’s water treatment and discharge.
“We have a unique situation where we’re going to run into discharge issues, and possible waste issues and where that waste can be disposed of,” Steiger said.
GAW does not have the same facilities to treat water and discharge as Lake Crest Manor, he said.
“What I’m hearing from the council is you’re all interested in continuing discussion,” Mayor Stange said. “My concern is that the discussion is just discussion and there’s no end.”
He asked council members to determine what information they need to make a decision and to work through the utilities committee and staff to obtain it.
“We’ve got budgets coming up here in a very short amount of time and that’s going to soak up a lot of time,” Stange said. “I would like to have this resolved by the end of December at the latest.”
Whitehead suggested a work session once all the requests for information have been processed and compiled.
Stange said the council could put as much work as it wanted on the issue.
“I just want it accomplished,” he said.