Water discussion comes to an end

A discussion overflowing from a Nov. 27 work meeting about the feasibility of drilling municipal wells rather than spending money on a new water treatment plant, ended in a 3-2 decision at the Dec. 4 council meeting. 

Councilman Justin Ferguson made a motion to approve water testing for $750 at the Whistle Creek Ranch (a possible site for a municipal well) and was seconded by councilman Ken Rockeman. However, councilmen Dan Thomasson and Bill Miller both voted against the motion, leaving it to Mayor Mark Stephens to break the tie.

Stephens voted against moving forward on testing and more than likely ended any further discussion about drill wells to replace the $4.6 million water treatment plant. 

“I don’t know what good it’s going to do us,” Stephens said. “If we were in it at the beginning, I’d be all for it. But we’re already in this [contract to build the treatment plant] for five or seven years, and now we’re going backwards. I understand it’s best to save the city money, but I don’t know if we’re actually saving money since we’ve already got so much invested [in the treatment plant].”

The city has already spent $827,326.99 on building the new water treatment pant. The city is also getting money from the state through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) to help pay for the rest of the project in 2018. 

Should the council have moved forward with drilling municipal wells, money from the state would have disappeared. 

While some members of the public announced they’d be for moving forward and testing for possible well sites, just as many thought it’d be safer to just continue down the path of building the water treatment plant. The uncertainty around well-drilling was too much of a burden for some, and at one point during the conversation, councilman Ferguson agreed. 

“How many wells is it going to take? Is it going to take 10?” Ferguson asked. “That’s an unknown. I don’t like dealing with these unknowns.”

The discussion stems from a pair of citizens approaching the council at the Nov. 22 meeting about the possibility of drilling wells and saving Big Timber taxpayers money. While the idea sounded great on the surface, the feasibility wasn’t there to backtrack on the water treatment project and start from ground zero on hopefully finding adequate places for municipal wells in the city. 

For more of this story, pick up a copy of this week’s Big Timber Pioneer on newsstands now, or subscribe online at bigtimberpioneer.net.




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