Council green lights regional water request

by nathan oster

Big Horn Regional is proceeding with plans to tie a well drilled near Shell into its water supply system – and the Greybull Town Council endorsed that plan and the rate increase that will be needed to pay for it during its meeting Monday at Town Hall.

The project will cost an estimated $7 million, and Councilman Bob Graham explained that Big Horn Regional would be presenting a resolution to change its bylaws — something it must do in order to raise EDU charges — when it meets later this month.

Each of the five entities that make up the regional water system will have a vote on whether to support or oppose the EDU hike of $1.14 required to proceed with the proposed expansion of the system, Graham said.

The town of Greybull currently pays $9.10 of the monthly “debt service” line item it collects from every town water customer directly to Big Horn Regional. If the new well gets tied into the system, the EDU fee for the standard three-quarter inch tap would rise by $1.14.  For larger taps, the increase would be greater. There are more than 1,400 EDUs, total, within the Greybull water system.

Across the entire Big Horn Regional water system, there are 6,345 EDUs, John Joyce of the BHR joint powers board said in a recent interview. On a monthly basis, the additional $1.14 for each of those EDUs would bring in $7,233.  Annually, it would generate nearly $87,000.

The increase would take effect July 1, assuming that Big Horn Regional clears all the required hurdles, Graham said.  Among them are the change in bylaws, a public hearing and the updating of documents.

“Seems like one thing after another,” said Councilor Kay Fleek, who has voiced concerns in the past about the skyrocketing cost of the regional water system, which also lists as its members the South Big Horn Water system (Basin and Manderson), Kirby-Lucerne, Washakie Rural Water and Worland.

When asked if this was the last increase that Big Horn Regional would seek, Graham paused for a moment, then offered a “No.”  He said additional phases calling for the installation of pumps are in the works.

But he emphasized that the town would benefit from the tying in of the new well.

The project calls for the construction of a well house and approximately 10 miles of transmission line that would carry the water from the well, into the town’s water storage tank, and ultimately, to a point along Basin Gardens Road where it would connect to the regional system.

Graham said Big Horn Regional agreed to upsize the pipe to make it more palatable to Greybull officials. For about six of those 10 miles, it will run parallel with the town’s primary transmission line. If it were to fail, the regional water line could be used to transport water to the town.

“A former mayor once told me to be sure to support every water project you possibly can,” Mayor Frank Houk said. “There is a good price, and a bad price. I’m not sure we’re getting a good price (today), but 40 years from now, we will probably think the price wasn’t too bad.”

Councilman Bob McGuire echoed those sentiments, saying the town benefits from working cooperatively with other entities, and that it could not afford to drill, develop and tie in a new well on its own.

Added Graham later, “If the regional water were to disband, that well would only be eight miles from Greybull.  In that event, I could not see it and that pipeline being useful to anyone but us.”

Other business

In other news Monday night:

• The council approved on second reading an ordinance amendment pertaining to speed limits. A judge had recommended the change, recognizing that the words “or otherwise posted” were needed because the previous ordinance mentioned only two specific speed limits in town.

• Matt Shafer, who recently purchased property near the elementary school, spoke with the council about his concerns with the one-way traffic zone in front of the school. Even thought the one-ways are only in effect before and after school, Shafer said they are preventing him from accessing his property.

Shafer said he’s been trying to work on the property, which is located at the corner of South Second Street and Sixth Avenue South. But he cannot park in front of it legally during the hours that the one-way is in effect because he would either have to drive the wrong way into the one-way to get to his property or park with the vehicle’s driver’s side to the curb. He said he has already received a warning from the police for doing the latter.

Police Chief Bill Brenner conceded that the one-way ordinance failed to account for situations like Shafers, which Town Attorney Scott McColloch described as a “unique” one.  The council directed McColloch to look into the ordinance and clarify the issue.

• Harris Construction was scheduled to go to work on Tuesday replacing water lines around town.  They will begin around the swimming pool, according to Bret Reed of Engineering Associates.

• The council agreed to advertise for the renewal of liquor licenses. The town has six retail liquor licenses, two restaurant liquor licenses and one limited retail liquor license. The only change this year is that Carla Scharen, owner of CC’s Pizza, is requesting a bar and grill liquor license.  The hearing on the issuance of these licenses is set for Feb. 13.

• The Bank of Greybull and Big Horn Federal were affirmed as the town’s official depositories.

• The town and the Airport Bench District continue to negotiate over the district being incorporated into the town’s water system.

• William Gibson spoke with council members about his concerns about the condition of the alley near his home.  Gibson lives in the alley between Seventh and Eighth avenues south and between Fifth and Sixth streets.  He had raised the issue several months ago, and council members said they were under the impression that the matter had been resolved. Gibson assured him that it had not. Bret Reed of Engineer Associates said the alley would be fixed to the satisfaction of Gibson and his neighbors when the ground thaws.

• Brenner was recognized for 10 years of law enforcement service to the town.