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Gallery West decision “hopefully”

Council sets Dec. 13 work session for in-depth discussion

SOLON– The Solon City Council is expected to make a decision regarding Gallery Acres West’s request for water service at a Dec. 20 regular meeting.
Council members and Mayor Steve Stange discussed the issue briefly at a Dec. 6 meeting before setting a Dec. 13 work session for in-depth deliberation.
At the beginning of November, Stange asked council members to decide on the Gallery Acres West (GAW) extension by the end of December.
The topic appeared on the Dec. 6 agenda for discussion and possible action, but Stange quickly extinguished the hope of a decision.
“This is an update,” Stange said to introduce the subject. “There will not be a vote this evening on this unless council decides they want to, but from what I understand there’s some information still being gathered.”
Council member Steve Duncan spoke on behalf of the council’s utilities committee, which initially dealt with the GAW proposal and was charged with making sure all requests for information were relayed to staff and addressed.
“We’re real close to gathering all those answers to those questions,” Duncan said, noting the city additionally received emails and letters from residents.
“I believe that it’s– at this point and time– real important that we have a work session very quickly here in the next few days,” Duncan said. “This obviously isn’t an easy issue to deal with, I know we all have various opinions about where we’re at and what we’ve seen so far.”
But the mayor has challenged the council to get something done in December, he continued, adding he and the utilities committee would like to move in one direction or the other.”
“I feel more confident that we’re getting answers to the questions that most everybody’s posed to the city,” he said.
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 council’s utility committee reviewed the request and declined to participate, but after GAW qualified for a 75 percent forgivable loan through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help finance the construction of a water line from the city limits to the development, the issue was brought to the full council.
At a July 26 meeting, council members authorized city staff to research the proposal and its impact. A 3-inch service line which would serve only the 14 homes at Gallery Acres West has been estimated to cost approximately $780,000, while an 8-inch main which could provide water to other lake-area subdivisions has been estimated at $981,000.
City Engineer Dave Schechinger compiled projections on the impact of adding additional water customers, and the city subsequently held a joint informational meeting with DNR officials in October, leading to Stange’s call for action in November.
Stange suggested making the work session a special session, allowing a decision to be made if so desired.
“We’re already in the second week of December,” he said.
But council members wanted time to digest information.
“I feel like I probably want to absorb the information I acquire at the session before voting anyway,” council member Mark Prentice said.
Council members Lauren Whitehead and Shawn Mercer both supported hosting a work session only.
City Administrator Cami Rasmussen and council members settled on a Wednesday, Dec. 13, date for the work session, with a possible decision Dec. 20.
“Hopefully?” Stange asked.
“I would think,” Duncan responded.