Questions remain on owning damIt’s hard to say whether the city taking ownership of the Icehouse Dam is a good decision. It could be, but we’re not convinced of that right now. The reason is there are so many unanswered questions we think the City Council shouldn’t move forward on this until residents and the council have more information.
It’s hard to say whether the city taking ownership of the Icehouse Dam is a good decision. It could be, but we’re not convinced of that right now. The reason is there are so many unanswered questions we think the City Council shouldn’t move forward on this until residents and the council have more information.
The dam was a late addition to Tuesday’s Finance and Legal Committee agenda so most residents were unaware it was going to be brought up and voted on.
There was also no mention during the meeting that willingness to accept ownership of the land meant taking ownership of the dam.
City Council members Ken Schulz and Kelani Parisien, who voted against taking ownership at the committee meeting, have the same concerns we do.
Where are the signed documents saying the State Water Commission will provide engineering and some funding in the process to begin repairs to this dam? So far, all the promises and information appear to be verbal. At this time, the estimates for repair are between $90,000 and $120,000, but what if there’s more serious structural damage than is known? It may be that $120,000 is just the beginning of the costs associated with repairing the dam. Who pays for it? What about long-term considerations for a dam built in 1933?
According to Mayor Clarice Liechty, who is spearheading the ownership push, the homeowners along the river are willing to accept a special assessment for repairs, but again, that’s verbal. There’s nothing signed by the homeowners. And if they accept the responsibility, would the assessment be reinstated for any maintenance and repairs needed in the future? Do you assess maintenance of a dam in a seven-year cycle as the city does with streets?
Another important consideration: Who makes the decision to open or close the gates the homeowners, the city, the state or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if the dam is causing a problem with releases? Any or all of these? It’s entirely new territory for the city to manage and maintain a dam.
There are also liability questions that need to be addressed. Access to the dam is tucked between houses that border the river. Is that an easement and, if it is, is it enough to allow equipment to get to the dam to make the repairs?
Because cities don’t generally own dams and because Jamestown has never owned one, these questions become important to answer now. As it is, it appears the city will discover the issues and hazards of owning a dam only after the fact. Is it a good move for the city to take ownership? Possibly.
But there are too many unanswered questions that should be settled before the city moves forward. The recommendation to accept ownership should be taken off the consent agenda at tonight’s council meeting so the questions can be discussed and answered.
(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)