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City water for GWA

Agreement in principle to move forward passes, 4-1

SOLON– The City of Solon will extend its water supply to Gallery Acres West.
At a Dec. 20 meeting, city council members voted 4-1 to approve a resolution directing city staff to negotiate with the rural homeowners association under an outlined set of conditions.
According to the resolution, the supply shall be metered from the city limits, Gallery Acres West (GAW) residents will pay a one-time connection fee and will be charged twice the rate for usage, and GAW will be responsible for the cost of constructing the main.
Council member Lauren Whitehead cast the dissenting vote.
“We’re pleased with the council’s decision,” association president Mark Steiger said. “Now the real work begins.”
The GAW homeowners association approached the city over a year ago seeking assistance in dealing with unacceptable levels of arsenic in the rural subdivision’s drinking water.
The association qualified for a 75 percent forgivable loan through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help finance the construction of an 8-inch water line from the city limits to the development’s 14 homes.
In July, council members authorized city staff to research the proposal and its impact. The city subsequently compiled projections on the impact of adding additional water customers, held a joint informational meeting with DNR officials in October and the debate culminated with a work session Dec. 13.
“You’ve had a lot of discussion on this,” Mayor Steve Stange observed, introducing the agenda item at the Dec. 20 meeting. “The resolution is in front of you.”
Council member Steve Duncan, a member of the council’s utilities committee, said the resolution reflected the consensus framework for moving forward.
“All those details, if it passes, will be worked out as we go along,” he said.
“I really do appreciate all the work, effort and time that our staff has put in,” Duncan added.
City Engineer Dave Schechinger, Public Works Director Scott Kleppe, and City Attorney Kevin Olson all took time to respond to questions posed by council members, he said, and input from people on both sides of the issue had been received.
Duncan suggested it was time for the council members to make a decision and be done.
Council member Lynn Morris thanked everyone for their participation.
“Lot of comments, lot of feedback,” she said.
Morris, also a utilities committee member, said the council had gone through the issue together. It was emotional and produced anxiety, but had also been objective, and had grown together as a council, she said. “And those are all good things,” she added.
With no further discussion from the council, Duncan motioned approval of the resolution and the vote was taken, scattered applause followed.
“I appreciate council meeting this deadline so that we can start focusing on what’s next, and we can move on with our budget season,” Stange noted.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Stange added to his comments, complimenting the council, “as far as working through a large project like this, being able to disagree with one another, have questions and be able to conduct themselves in a great manner. I appreciate that.”
Iowa Senator Bob Dvorksy (D-Coralville) thanked everyone involved for their hard work. “I think it really reflects well on the city of Solon, how you did this process,” he commented after the vote.
After the meeting, Whitehead said her vote against the measure reflected the doubt Solon citizens harbor about the benefits of the project.
“The residents were not unanimous and my vote reflects that in the context of council,” she said via email. “Fortunately, we have time to consider and create an agreement that I think can address the concerns people have expressed.”
Whitehead agreed the council had grown through the process, which she said is encouraging for an arrangement that maximizes benefits and “minimizes the risks for Solon residents.”