City orders water studyThe City Council’s Public Works Committee Thursday voted unanimously to get a city-wide water system study moving quickly that concentrates first on potential development in the area near the Jamestown Regional Medical Center. City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf told the committee the estimated $140,000 study was originally planned for the 2011 budget year. However, after discussions he had with Fire Chief Jim Reuther and the city’s Utilities Operations Director Steve Suko, they agreed the study should be moved to this fall.
The City Council’s Public Works Committee Thursday voted unanimously to get a city-wide water system study moving quickly that concentrates first on potential development in the area near the Jamestown Regional Medical Center.
City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf told the committee the estimated $140,000 study was originally planned for the 2011 budget year. However, after discussions he had with Fire Chief Jim Reuther and the city’s Utilities Operations Director Steve Suko, they agreed the study should be moved to this fall.
“Once we tie the State Hospital and Jamestown Medical Center into the system and the water we sell to Stutsman Rural Water (District), we have no supply for further development out there,” Schwartzkopf told the committee.
At this point, Schwartzkopf said, he’s estimating a 1.5 million gallon water tower is going to be needed for the area south of Interstate 94. However, the study’s information would provide a more accurate picture of potential water needs there. He said City Hall is already getting calls about fairly large-scale development for that area.
“I’m recommending that the study proceed as rapidly as possible so we can look into the future,” he said.
Mayor Katie Andersen asked if it would be enough for now if the city paid for increasing the size of the lines going to the medical center. She said she would prefer to hold off spending the $140,000 if there was something else that needed to come first, such as other studies.
Schwartzkopf said the storm sewer and sanitary sewer studies are under way.
“The water system study is the next step,” he said.
Councilman Pat Nygaard said he felt the council “should move forward with the water study this year rather than wait.”
Councilman Ken Schulz said it would be valuable information for strategic planning.
The committee unanimously recommended the council approve the resolution.
It also approved “upsizing” the two water lines in the looped system to the medical center for $60,000. The city’s Planning Commission recommended the move as it would also serve development in the area.
Former Mayor Clarice Liechty told the Public Works Committee the council should change the membership of the Planning Commission. The commission had failed to act on the matter, she said at the meeting.
“This issue has been before the commission for months,” Liechty said.
The committee also agreed unanimously to send to the council, without recommendation, consideration of Jamestown Hospital’s request to allow Stutsman Rural Water to supply a backup water system.
City Attorney Ken Dalsted provided the committee with copies of the present ordinance, which states that “persons or entities ... shall be required to use and patronize the city’s municipal water system for all uses ....” This means that current law does not allow the hospital to use Rural Water for a backup system.
Dalsted said the city has always had a good working relationship with Rural Water, but the problem is going to occur 10 years down the road.
“We won’t probably be here in 10 years so we don’t want to set up a precedent by making an exception,” Andersen said.
“I can see the council having to work through requests by residential and commercial properties saying we made an exception once, why not again,” Nygaard said.
Jamestown Hospital CEO Marty Richman said in making the request for a redundant water supply, the hospital is thinking of the public good. It’s one reason, he said, the medical center has redundancies built into its entire system.
“If everything else fails, people look to the hospital as the place to go,” Richman said. “We need to be there in the case of a catastrophic emergency.”
He noted the city wells are near the river.
“It’s a fear that as good as the city is, nature can overwhelm us,” he said.
Alan O’Neil, the hospital’s chief financial officer, told the committee he is a Grand Forks native. When the city was flooded out in 1997, he said, “the city and the hospital lost their primary water supply. The hospital tapped into the rural system.”
The committee discussed various issues such as co-mingling of the two water supplies and measures to prevent that. The biggest concern for committee members remained setting a precedent that would bind future councils.
“I can support the hospital if we say the city is unable to supply any water in a catastrophic emergency,” Schulz said.
A letter from Rural Water said the district is looking at this as providing a backup water supply only if an emergency should occur.
“We need to look at the public good when we consider this,” Andersen said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org