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City still talking with partners on water pact

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Vandalia officials are continuing to work on an agreement with a local partnership that is offering to the city a third water source.
Mayor Rick Gottman, members of the city council’s water and sewer committee, and city Water Plant Superintendent Marty Huskey met again last Monday with Walt Barenfanger and Jeff Beckman.
The meeting was the fourth with the Kaskaskia Springs Water Co., which is offering to provide from an underground aquifer water that it says is cleaner and thus, cheaper to distribute than that from its two other sources, Vandalia Lake and Kaskaskia River.
The city representatives met with Barenfanger and Beckman last week after Huskey told committee members that he had several concerns.
Last week’s meeting ended with the city representatives seemingly having their concerns adequately addressed.
Huskey said at a committee meeting earlier this month that one of his major concerns about the water provided by Kaskaskia Springs mixing well with the city’s other sources.
At the start of last week’s meeting, however, Huskey said that he had done more research on that issue. “I don’t think it is an issue (anymore),” he said.
Huskey questioned the partnership on such things as backup power on Kaskaskia Springs pumps, an enclosure for the pumps and a road to those pumps.
Barenfanger said the partnership can install a generator at the pump site, that they are talking about a fiberglass enclosure for the pumps and that they will need to install a culvert and put down some rock for a road to the pump site.
With his concerns being addressed, Huskey said, “If this pans out and we like it, how long will it be until we can get more (from you)?”
The current draft of an agreement between the city and the partnership calls for Kaskaskia Springs to use two wells to provide up to 150,000 gallons of water per day, connecting to the city’s raw water line near the Vandalia Lake spillway.
At last week’s meeting, Barenfanger told city representatives that he and Beckman believe that “in a pinch,” they could provide considerably more water on a daily basis.
As they work on the startup of the two wells, Barenfanger and Beckman are also studying the possibility of starting up other wells in the underground acquifer.
Responding to Huskey’s question, Barenfanger said that the partnership is working to cover every base and address all concerns that the city has.
“I imagine there are going to be concerns pop up that we don’t realize yet.
“We’re getting ready to invest $50,000-$100,000, and whatever hiccups come up, we’ll address them,” he said.
About the city’s concerns about testing required for Kaskaskia Springs water at the startup, Barenfanger said, “There is a lot of testing that we have to do before the wells go online.
“We will be meeting with the EPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency) to go over protocols for testing.
“If it (the cost of testing) is onerous, we’ll pay for it,” Barenfanger said.
“We have got a little ways to go on this whole thing,” he said, explaining after the meeting that the partnership could be ready by spring to begin providing water to the city.
Alderman Terry Beesley told Barenfanger and Beckman that one of his concerns, which was brought up earlier by Huskey, is that the city would not need water from the partnership during winter months, but would still be paying for that service.
“We are going to be paying you – we will not be saving money, we’re going to be spending money.
“I think the savings will be less than what (has been projected),” Beesley said.
“My fear is that it is not going to work out and you are putting out a bunch of money. I fear for you as much as I fear for us,” he said.
In response, Barenfanger said, “I think it’s going to be very good for you, and I think we’ve spent a lot more money than we’re probably ever going to recover.
“If we had to do it all over again, we probably wouldn’t do it,” Barenfanger said, explaining after the meeting that he and Beckman have been working on this project for about five years.
“We have really accomplished a lot,” he said, telling Beesley that he believes that the need for a third water source will likely increase in future years.
“If we were to quit now (working with the city), I’d probably go ahead and drill the wells for future times,” Barenfanger said.
“Don’t worry about us,” he told Beesley. “The commitment is for $21,000, and I don’t think it’s a leap of faith to spend $21,000.
“I think you’ll be very happy after it (starts coming in), after a year,” Barenfanger said.
“I promise that you’ll be happy in a year’s time.”