Council votes to delay accepting ownership until questions answeredThe City Council voted 4-1 Monday to hold off on a decision to accept ownership of the Icehouse Dam until a representative from the State Water Commission can answer some questions regarding finances and responsibilities.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
The City Council voted 4-1 Monday to hold off on a decision to accept ownership of the Icehouse Dam until a representative from the State Water Commission can answer some questions regarding finances and responsibilities.
Councilman Pat Nygaard pulled the resolution accepting ownership off the consent agenda for further discussion. Nygaard was one of three council members who had voted in favor of acceptance at the Finance and Legal Committee meeting. He said the Icehouse Dam had been placed on the committee agenda just before the meeting started.
“It was new to me … we didn’t have much time to discuss it or ask questions,” Nygaard said Monday. “We should have put it on the agenda for the next Finance and Legal Committee and approached it in a more cautious manner.”
He added the property owners downstream of the Icehouse Dam don’t get any benefit from the dam.
“Sometimes the water in the oxbow area is down to a trickle. Do we look at a second dam downstream for those property owners?” he said. “Who decides the discharge (opening or closing the gates)?”
Mayor Clarice Liechty said “the homeowners would not be the ones to determine opening and closing the gates.”
She said she put the item on the Finance and Legal Committee agenda because it was close to crossover at the state Legislature. The State Water Commission budget would be coming up, she said, and she wanted to make sure the city’s ownership of the dam was a given, so it could be on the list for funding. The estimated cost of repairing the dam is between $90,000 and $130,000.
After reading and commenting on portions of The Jamestown Sun’s editorial in Monday’s newspaper, which said the decision on the dam should be delayed, the mayor added that all the people along the river don’t agree about a special assessment. The mayor has said in past meetings that the riverfront homeowners would be willing to pay the special assessment on repairs to the dam. Councilman Charlie Kourajian said there is nothing in writing and there are probably more than 100 homes along the river.
“They have not said whether they want a special assessment,” Kourajian said.
The river committee talked of a special assessment of homeowners, Liechty said, but it’s a small informal group and wasn’t trying to speak for everyone. However, last June, the council authorized setting up a special assessment district for riverfront properties for repairs to the Icehouse Dam based on the willingness of the homeowners to accept a special assessment. And in an e-mail to The Sun, the mayor wrote … they (riverfront homeowners) are not asking for a city-wide assessment, but for an assessment from the owners along the rivers and the two parks.”
Pat Folk, who is a riverfront home owner, said at the meeting Monday, he’d never heard of the river committee and no one had approached him about a special assessment. Liechty denied saying the homeowners agreed to a special assessment, saying The Sun had erred.
“I live on the river and I want to know what’s going on,” Folk said.
Councilman Ken Schulz suggested placing the subject on the March Finance and Legal Committee meeting and inviting the State Water Commission to send a representative. He also suggested a public hearing to get answers to the questions council members and community have. The mayor said Water Commission representatives have been here many times already.
“I don’t remember them coming to a meeting. It would be a tremendous help to have him here and have a public hearing,” Schulz said.
“Now is the time to accept ownership of the dam,” Liechty said.
Councilwoman Kelani Parisien agreed it was a good idea to have someone from the Water Commission come to a meeting. She said it would be a good opportunity to learn about the commission’s programs and its grants along with asking financial questions.
Kourajian said the mayor, as a riverfront homeowner, has said she has a vested interest in the Icehouse Dam.
“Don’t you think you have a conflict of interest?” Kourajian asked.
“No, I don’t,” Liechty answered. She said the river is a concern for the whole city.
The mayor was the only vote in favor of accepting ownership. The Finance and Legal Committee meeting is March 24.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org