|Terrytown hopes for water agreement|
|May 14, 2015 Jerry Purvis|
After meeting with representatives of the North Platte Natural Resources District, Terrytown officials hope to negotiate a water agreement similar to the one agreed to by Minatare and Scottsbluff.
The process is called water mitigation and requires municipalities to make up for groundwater usage when it impacts third parties.
Minatare, which gets its water from Scottsbluff, had to account for the water that affected three surface water diverters. Through a series of water credits, Minatare was able to negotiate a reasonable cost for its water needs.
Terrytown is hoping for the same type of agreement, although it hasn’t yet contracted with either Scottsbluff or Gering for its water needs.
Terrytown City Engineer Jeff Wolfe said they have met with Gering and agreed to seek a draft agreement similar to the one between Minatare and Scottsbluff. That could be completed once the NRD agrees.
An agreed-to water mitigation policy is a necessary step for getting the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to accept Terrytown’s ongoing water project. That work includes replacing several of the water mains in both Terrytown and neighboring Bellevue and connecting all businesses and residences to a water metering system. And due to the higher than allowed levels of contaminants in its water wells, Terrytown will need to contract with a neighboring city to supply its water.
Wolfe emphasized that although they have drafted a mitigation agreement with Gering, the city hasn’t contracted with anyone for its water at this time. However, the state recommended Terrytown draft an agreement with Gering, due to its similarity in elevation.
“Once we have an agreement in place, I hope the state will forward our project to their funding group,” Wolfe told city council members during their monthly meeting. “The state no longer funds mitigation costs, so we have to take care of that ourselves.”
Wolfe said the latest state requirements throws into question Terrytown’s plan to bid the water project this fall and begin construction next spring.
“Until the state sees this mitigation agreement, they won’t forward our water project to the funding group,” he said. “It could be June before we see an agreement, and maybe July before our local communities can agree to terms. Then it could be fall before the state gives its approval.”
Terrytown council members also discussed whether to establish an LB 840 economic development program for the city. The state legislation allows municipalities to increase its local sales tax by one-half percent to fund community betterment and economic development projects. The tax could also be collected from property tax.
Implementing an LB 840 program would require, among other things, preparing a plan, a special election for the voters to approve it, and establishing a special board that would oversee expenditures from the fund. Overall, implementation costs could run in the $10,000 range.
Terrytown Mayor Kent Greenwalt said with minimal property valuation, LB 840 funding based on property tax would be impractical. Plus, the city is currently only collecting about $20,000 in sales taxes annually, based on their current 1.5 percent sales tax rate. An additional half percent from LB 840 would only bring in an additional $10,000 to $12,000.
“I think the cost of putting this program into operation makes it impractical to pursue,” he said.