City, rural water conflict continues over territoryWhile negotiations between Jamestown and Stutsman Rural Water District remain at an impasse, Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen lobbied North Dakota water officials to withhold further funding from the rural water district, according to a leader of a North Dakota water organization.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
While negotiations between Jamestown and Stutsman Rural Water District remain at an impasse, Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen lobbied North Dakota water officials to withhold further funding from the rural water district, according to a leader of a North Dakota water organization.
Jamestown and Stutsman Rural Water are in a dispute over which utility has the right to serve the area surrounding Jamestown Regional Medical Center. The issue has continued for about two years.
Andersen’s comments occurred at a November funding subcommittee meeting of the North Dakota Water Coalition. The Water Coalition makes funding recommendations for water grants from state funds collected on oil and gas extraction.
“This was very unusual,” said Eric Volk, executive director of the North Dakota Rural Water System Association, who attended the meeting. “This was a subcommittee working on funding issues but she thought it was the right place. Stutsman Rural Water was not there so her presentation was one-sided.”
Andersen said she attended the meeting in an advisory capacity.
“I wanted them to be aware there was a territorial dispute and they should be aware of the issues when they make funding decisions,” she said. “Funding some of the projects they were considering could make things worse in Jamestown.”
Andersen said, for example, state grant funding for improvements to the Rural Water treatment plant would increase its capacity and give it an advantage in the area.
Volk said Andersen’s comments at the meeting included a request that funding be withheld from any group that was facing litigation.
“When she said funding should be withheld from Stutsman Rural Water, it got my attention pretty quick,” Volk said. “Withholding funding from projects that provide water to areas like Woodworth and Streeter over a dispute just outside Jamestown seemed excessive.”
Andersen said she did not request funding be withheld but wanted the coalition to know the situation.
The North Dakota Water Coalition said the topic is a local issue.
“It is an issue that needs to be settled at the local level,” said Jean Schafer, executive director of the North Dakota Water Coalition, who also attended the meeting. “She wanted folks in the room to know what was going on. This is a territorial integrity issue.”
The Jamestown City Council will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. today to discuss the latest proposal from Stutsman Rural Water. The council is expected to go into executive session.
“Their communications set out their position and the law,” said Ken Dalsted, city attorney. “We received a new letter the other day and are looking at how to respond.”
Officials with Stutsman Rural Water said they hoped to move forward with the discussion.
“We made them an offer in October that has not been acknowledged,” said Geneva Kaiser, manager of Stutsman Rural Water District. “We’re looking for them to respond so we can find some common ground and move forward.”
Andersen said a meeting of attorneys for each side along with one or two representatives of the city and Rural Water may occur next week.
Until the issue is resolved, JRMC does not have a redundant supply of water and the Titan Machinery building now under construction west of the JRMC has no water service. A $1 million construction contract to bring city water and sewer lines to the Titan Machinery location is on hold pending the resolution of the conflict.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org