The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

Water Service for City of Glasgow

 


Dear Residents:

As you have probably heard, city of Glasgow has been in the process of determining which courses of action to take in regards to the future source of Glasgow’s drinking water. As a public water provider, the city understands the effort and commitment it takes to operate and manage a safe and reliable water system. The City Council is also sensitive and understanding to the residents of Glasgow, and the cost incurred to the water and sewer rate payer. If you have lived here for any length of time, you may recall that this topic has been on the table for quite some time, dating all the way back to the inception of the Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority. As early [as] 2000, the city was beginning to examine the viability the city received drinking water from the rural water authority project. It has been no small nor light decision for the council to process as we have examined and re-examined all the data and information at hand over the past 16 years, to arrive at a decision that we feel will best serve the needs of Glasgow’s residents.

During that lengthy window of consideration, the city examined detailed data and information regarding the city’s existing water system, second party infrastructure that has a bearing on the system, and the rural water authority’s proposed system as well as their more recent existing system infrastructure. To further put that decision time frame into perspective, bear in mind that the referenced period of time covers the service of three mayors, over half a dozen city council members, two public works directors, multiple city staff members as well as two general managers for the rural water authority and multiple board members and employees in that organization.

Additionally worth noting is the fact that during the analysis, the city of Glasgow invested in several engineering studies, valued at over $55,000, and countless hours of staff work compiling data. The data and analysis from those studies were generated to document and prove accurate information for the council’s use as well as state and federal government agencies use in understanding pros and cons of the matter.

With such a long history regarding the matter, one might be inclined to ask, “Why now: what is driving the push for a current decision?” There are several answers to that question, but the two primary answers include the following: 1) the fact that the rural water authority is close to completing installation of its last leg of water supply pipe line in to Glasgow’s area. Therefore the time is now to decide if it is in the best interest of Glasgow to hook up to that source. 2) Another important driver, that you may remember, is that the city of Glasgow has been working on a “Preliminary Engineering Report” or PER for the city’s water system. PERs are typically done when extensive repairs or new work is required on a facility or infrastructure system. Glasgow’s water treatment facility is to a point where the city needs to invest in it or risk potential future failures. These two factors require a vital decision because the courses of action(s) for each are interdependent upon each other. The mayor of Glasgow and the City Council recognized the fact that the answer to whether or not Glasgow should hook up to the regional water authority could not be put off any longer. Regardless of the source of Glasgow’s drinking water, repairs and improvements must be made to the system.

In order to make an informed decision regarding which source of water would be in the best interest of the city, the council examined a multitude of criteria as related to providing safe and reliable drinking water through a standard and accepted 20-year planning period. The criteria included but where not necessarily limited to:

1. Current and future regulatory requirements

2. Current and future situation (or status of demand for water)

3. Evaluation of the existing water supplies and systems (both for Glasgow Water Department and the rural water authority)

4. Financial status of the system

5. Environmental review

6. Necessary improvements and repairs

7. Non-economic factors

8. Reliability of water sources and treatment methods

9. Operational requirements (of each system, including operation and maintenance costs)

10. System flexibility

11. Energy use by each system

12. Effect on Water Rights (for the city)

13. Timing, environmental impacts, water rates

14. Projected costs to the city and rate payers

The Water Department staff, the Public Works director, the Water Committee members, council and the mayor all worked with engineering consultants, the rural water authority, state and federal agencies to examine all the criteria listed above. During work sessions and meetings, review of one criterion often led to detailed components of that criteria, which provided more questions, and eventual clarity that provided informed answers. In the end, the pros of Glasgow remaining independent and continuing to be a water provider for the residents of Glasgow won out over the alternative of the city buying water from the rural water authority.

Below is a brief summary of the primary reasons that the council felt the chosen course of action would be in the best interest of Glasgow:

Of primary concern were rates: While at some point soon, a small rate increase will be necessary to the residents of Glasgow, even with that rate increase, it would still cost the residents of Glasgow over $3 more per month on the base rate to receive water from the rural water authority.

Cost control: By purchasing water from the rural water authority, the city of Glasgow would be three times removed from any decisions regarding rate increases and spending on the water production portion of the water to Glasgow) city of Glasgow (would still be responsible for distribution and invoicing water sales)

System operation and maintenance costs: Glasgow would still be required to maintain current staff to: qualify control test, maintain the distribution system, meter system, invoicing, take care of and maintain water storage facilities, make repairs and upgrades to in-town pumping facilities, etc. The water department already does all that, but on top of those costs, there would be the cost to buy the water. Financial planning for a system owned by the city is more predictable and allows for more flexibility. While a portion of the transmission system currently operated is owned by MARCO, the city has been proactively saving money to offset any potential future costs associated with that transmission line.

Non-economic factors: Glasgow’s system is very reliable; it offers flexibility for extreme conditions and emergency fire control. Energy usage – locally produced water is more energy efficient; pumping the water four times the distance uses more energy. Water rights are a concern, if the city does not continue to utilize its water rights, at some point they would be decreased and eventually abandoned thereby limiting the city’s future options for water. Uncertainty of future water authority rates – while not quantifiable, the water authority’s service is federally subsidized, should that change, it will be the burden of the off-reservation portion of the system to pick up that difference in cost.

Quality of Water: Glasgow’s quality of water is as good, if not better than the alternative. IF Glasgow had poor quality water, utilizing the alternative would be a no-brainer, but this is not the case.

It is the intention of the city of Glasgow to continue producing its own drinking water and not purchase water from Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority at this time. The course of action chosen takes the city of Glasgow through a minimum of 20-year planning period. The council wrestled with that fact that no system or improvements to those systems last in perpetuity, therefore at some future point in time, the council would like to have an idea as to what all other options may be. Therefore, in light of that forward planning, the council has opted to continue to keep long-term options open with the rural water authority. The city of Glasgow values the water services offered by Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority to all rural residents of Valley County and beyond. We have worked with DPRWA and respect the working relationship which we have. We hope to promote future collaborative efforts and support for both of our public water systems.

Back in the early 1980s, the mayor and council at that time had the sound forethought to switch Glasgow’s water source to the Missouri River. That advanced thinking has helped Glasgow enjoy over 30 years of quality drinking water. We are honored to serve Glasgow and the city thanks you for your trust as we look forward to another 30-plus years of quality water production to serve our residents.

City of Glasgow, MT

Becky Erickson

Mayor of Glasgow

Robert Kompel

Public Works Director

 

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