Stutsman Rural Water grant gets OK: Jamestown mayor asks for delayAbout 750 residences in western Stutsman County moved a step closer to getting connected to rural water Wednesday, according to North Dakota State Water Commission members.
By: By Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
About 750 residences in western Stutsman County moved a step closer to getting connected to rural water Wednesday, according to North Dakota State Water Commission members.
The commission voted 8-1 to approve the $9.97 million grant for Stutsman Rural Water District, authorized by the North Dakota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
The move, like the other stages of this issue, was debated and received testimony by Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen as well as officials with Stutsman Rural Water District.
Jamestown and Stutsman Rural Water have been embroiled in a territorial dispute since October 2012. The dispute involves who should provide water service to the area near Jamestown Regional Medical Center and includes the Titan Machinery building which is now under construction.
“I gave them background about Rural Water not honoring the purchase agreement,” Andersen said Thursday. “I talked to them about House Bill 1440 and said we would like to see the same things applied in this situation.”
House Bill 1440 sets out a series of guidelines for handling territory disagreements between cities and rural water organizations. Andersen said the bill prohibits funding for water projects where there are disagreements regarding territory.
The bill passed the House on Feb. 26 and is pending in the Senate.
Andersen’s testimony surprised Doug Goehring, North Dakota agriculture commissioner and member of the State Water Commission.
“I was a bit confused,” Goehring said. “I knew what the project was. When an issue within one mile of city limits was raised I didn’t know if it had changed. It kind of muddied the water. The Legislature was well aware of the project and issues but they appropriated the money. Unless you have a really good reason, you don’t push back against the Legislature.”
Goehring said Andersen requested a delay of the grant funding. He characterized Andersen’s testimony as “making her case for Jamestown.”
“The mayor asked for a delay in granting the request until an agreement was reached,” he said. “She felt they would have a better position to negotiate from if the funding was delayed.”
Andersen’s request garnered one vote from the nine-member State Water Commission: Harley Swenson, a retired engineer from Bismarck.
“The mayor was eloquent about her position and I supported that position,” Swenson said.
Swenson said controlling the grant funding was the only authority the Water Commission had over rural water organizations.
“We were being told by the Legislature that this was their intent,” he said. “I felt this was an opportunity to say that the cities and rural waters should work together. She was asking for us to vote not to fund this water project. She felt like I do, that funding is the only lever the state has over the rural water groups.”
With the grant approved by the State Water Commission, the funding is available to Stutsman Rural Water District as soon as grant agreements are drafted and signed.
“With the money awarded today we’re on track to go for bids,” said Geneva Kaiser, manager of Stutsman Rural Water District.
The first stages, which will be advertised for bids in less than two weeks, include an elevated water tank at Woodworth, connections for the city of Woodworth and rural residents in the Woodworth and Cleveland areas.
The portion of the project south of Interstate 94 is still under design and will be bid as a separate project possibly in April. It is planned to reach the Streeter and Adrian areas.
Kaiser said both projects could be under construction simultaneously this summer.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org