City acts against water hood-ins after industry talks fail

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Illegal to cross-connect

Under an ordinance passed last night by the Storm Lake City Council, it would be illegal for users of the city's water system to cross-connect with any other water system.

The action comes following a breakdown in talks with the city's two largest industries - IBP and Bil-Mar - to fund half of the improvements for a water plant expansion project.

City Administrator John Call said the need for the ordinance is two-fold. First, to protect the city's system from contamination; and second, to keep the city from becoming a supplemental water supplier for industry, he said.

"If a structure is using water from a private well, this updated ordinance would make it illegal to purchase water from the city's public water supply," Call said in a staff summary.

Exceptions to the ordinance include private water systems that are designed for watering lawns or washing vehicles.

"This is primarily a health and environment issue," Call said. "The city cannot take the chance that its water supply could become cross contaminated. Also, the City of Storm Lake does not want to get into the business of becoming a supplemental or back-up water supply for business or industry."

The city administrator announced at last month's council meeting that the water plant expansion project is on hold after the city and the two meat packing plants could not finalize an agreement.

As a result, the city council voted to up water usage rates for industries. The council approved the second reading of that ordinance last night, too.

The city had hoped to begin work on a $6.9 million capital improvement project at the treatment plant to increase capacity. Without a long-term deal with Bil-Mar and IBP, Call had said the city cannot start on those improvements.

The long-term contracts with IBP and Bil-Mar were to pay $3.45 million up front of the cost for the $6.9 million water project.

A spokesperson for IBP said last month that the company was exploring its options for a supplemental water supply to the plant and not searching for a private well to become the primary water source.

In other news:

* The city council agreed on a vote of 4-1 to make a police officer position currently being funded by a grant a permanent position on the Storm Lake Police Department.

The city applied for funding in 1998 through the Cops in School program in order to establish the School Resource Officer program, said Public Safety Director Mark Prosser. The program was initiated in 2000 after receiving funding.

The grant funded the position for three years, while requiring the city and school district to determine a way to fund the program a fourth year.

With the program half-over, Prosser asked the city council to make the officer a permanent member of the police department in order to continue serving the city after the grant expires.

Prosser said another officer is needed to help with the growing needs of Storm Lake. As the population grows and new businesses start, he said there is a likewise increase on the number of calls for service the department receives.

Council member Wally Burns voted against the request, noting that he is concerned that the city is spending all that it can for law enforcement.

* A noise variance was granted to Godbersen-Smith Construction for work on North Lake Avenue and Shoreway Drive.

The variance runs from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the occasional need to run later.

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