City, Rural Water meet on TitanBoth sides of the disagreement between the city of Jamestown and the Stutsman Rural Water District met Thursday at the same place without meeting with each other.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Both sides of the disagreement between the city of Jamestown and the Stutsman Rural Water District met Thursday at the same place without meeting with each other.
The Rural Water District met in a closed executive session meeting in one meeting room at the Quality Inn and Suites in Jamestown while the City Council met in an open meeting and presented its side of the issue to about 20 people in another meeting room.
“The purpose of today’s meeting was to hold discussions between two groups,” said Mayor Katie Andersen. “Rural Water chose not to attend. If we have any wish to communicate through attorneys we can.”
Geneva Kaiser, Stutsman Rural Water District manager, said in an interview after the meeting she still hoped there would be progress.
“Absolutely we were hoping for negotiations today,” she said. “But communications from this point has to be through attorneys. We have gone back and forth at this for two years.”
At issue is who would provide water service to areas of development southwest of Jamestown in the area of the Jamestown Regional Medical Center and the under-construction Titan Machinery.
Andersen said the city’s contention it has the right to supply water to the area is based on a 2010 agreement with Rural Water that said, “the parties agree that upon annexation of lands within the statutory extra-territorial jurisdiction of the City of Jamestown to Jamestown, Jamestown may assume all or part of Stutsman’s system in said area. Upon any such annexation, Jamestown shall thereafter, unless otherwise agreed, have exclusive right to supply water to all locations within annexed area.”
The agreement was part of a purchase agreement that allows Rural Water to buy water from Jamestown.
Kaiser said federal law prohibits a rural water district from surrendering territory.
Ken Dalsted, city attorney, said after the meeting that the section Kaiser referred to is protection for the loans of a rural water district and prohibits territory that could generate income to repay loans from being taken by another water utility.
Kaiser said the law prevents rural water districts from losing valuable property near cities to municipal water systems, which could then reduce the volume of water handled by the rural system and raise costs to its users.
At this point, neither water system is in a legal position to serve Titan Machinery. The Jamestown City Council opened bids to extend water and sewer lines to Titan on Oct. 14. The bids were tabled under a threat of an injunction from Rural Water if the project were to begin.
The total costs of the project were about $1 million and would be paid with 75 percent special assessments on affected property and 25 percent city share of special assessments.
Rural Water has an 8-inch water main adjacent to the Titan property but any effort for it to provide service would likely be challenged by the city.
Attendees voiced concerns that the impasse between the two entities reflects badly on Jamestown.
“This has a terrible effect on the out-of-staters who want to build,” said J.P. Wiest, Jamestown businessman. “If we had this city leadership in the 1970s we wouldn’t have the benefits of businesses like Haybuster (now Duratech) and Wedgecor. This type of fighting destroys growth.”
Rural Water has proposed a five-point agreement for the city’s consideration in an Oct. 11 letter. It requires the city to reimburse rural water for water sales to Jamestown Regional Medical Center since it opened and share revenue in the future. It would also allow rural water to provide water to Titan Machinery and requires Jamestown to “never again encroach upon said territory.”
The City Council has not reviewed or acted upon those conditions in any public meeting.
Neither Andersen or Kaiser would speculate on where the conflict moves from here.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com