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City postpones decision on failing well

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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After debating a trio of recommended options, the Shelton City Commission on Monday postponed a decision to address its failing main well.

The commission is scheduled to again address the water shortage solutions proposed by Public Works Director Greg Clark at 6 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Shelton Civic Center.

Well No. 1 in the Upper Mountain View Pressure Zone is the city's largest well. At maximum, the well should be pumping 1,500 gallons per minute; instead, it's operating at 1,100 gallons per minute.

Last summer, and again this summer, the water level "drawdown" has dropped below 10 feet, which forces the city to shut off the pump several times a week. The failure of the well could trigger water rationing and prompt concerns about the capacity to battle fires, Clark had told the commissioners.

Commissioners Kathy McDowell and Gary Cronce rejected a proposal to borrow $1.3 million to replace the failing well. That plan was recommended by Clark, then-City Administrator Dave O'Leary and an independent water resources study greenlighted by the city. The commissioners asked Clark to come back with more options.

On Monday, Clark recommended the city enact three options:

Option one would drop the pump in the well by 42 feet, at an estimated cost of $20,000.

"Option one is to make sure we have water through the summer.... a safety net for this summer," Clark said.

Option two would "recondition" the well at an estimated cost of $195,000. An engineering contract would be awarded to design a new higher pressure pump. The existing pumphouse would be demolished; the well would be inspected by a TV camera and then cleaned; and a new pump would be installed. The well may need reperforation of well casing, depending on the TV inspection.

Option three calls for installing 1,500 feet of pressure pipeline to connect with an additional 500 feet of pipeline from Well No. 1 to get water to the Upper Mountain View Pressure Zone. The estimated cost is $400,000.

Commissioner Tracy Moore said she favors adopting all three options. She pointed out the city would get a 1 percent loan from the state for the project, and enacting all three would not affect water rates for customers.

Cronce said he favors the city going with option two to recondition the old well and buy a new pump, but said he isn't "comfortable" right now spending the $400,000 for option three. He also questioned why the city would spend $20,000 for the temporary summer fix and then tear it out with its replacement.

But after Clark talked about city staff being forced to turn off well No. 1 several times a week, Cronce said he wants to know how much that measure costs the city in employee time. He said he is willing to reconsider voting for the $20,000 summer fix.

McDowell said she also opposes approving the $400,000 for the Mountain View extension. She said she might favor options one and two, but also wants to hear more information on the employee hours needed to shut down the failing well.

Mike Olsen and Forrest Cooper were the only residents to offer opinions about the options at Monday's public hearing

Olsen, a former commissioner, advised the city to not opt for "the short-sighted, cheap version." He asked them to listen to the advice of experts and consider the future of Shelton.

Cronce interjected to ask Clark what advice he'd gotten from the well expert.

"He felt this was a good candidate for rehabilitation," Clark responded.

Cooper said he agrees with Cronce on adopting option two to rehabilitate the existing well instead of borrowing money to buy a new one.

"We might want to look at this as a used car," he said.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: July 21, 2016

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