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City denies private well to Blackduck Schools

Blackduck Public Schools recently installed a new irrigation system on the high school football field. The system will run on city water under the standard charge of $6.37 per 1,000 gallons. The city waived the base fee for the system due to the schools' other sewer and water uses. Photo by Christen Furlong.

At its meeting on Monday, Aug. 5, the Blackduck City Council approved a recommendation made by the Blackduck Public Works Committee to not allow Blackduck Public Schools to install a private well for irrigation purposes on its athletic fields.

The Council did, however, approve a discount for the schools to irrigate their fields using the standard city water rate of $6.37 per 1,000 gallons without the additional monthly $70 base fee — a discount of approximately 14 percent.

Andra Vaughn, athletics director for Blackduck High School, appeared in front of City Council on July 8, asking the Council to consider revising the ordinance that prohibits the drilling of private wells where city water and sewer are readily available.

“One way to take care of athletic fields, of course, is by adding sprinkling systems and that’s what we’ve done out on our football field and we need to do it on our baseball field,” Vaughn explained to the Council. “Bottom line — we need to be fiscally responsible to the community, we need to be fiscally responsible to our parents at our school, so we need to pursue a well.”

Because Blackduck Public Works cannot pump enough pressure to meet the demands of the sprinkler system needed, Blackduck Schools had already purchased a pump prior to appearing in front of the Council because they planned on connecting to city water to supply short bursts of water when needed with or without the amendment to Ordinance 113.

“We don’t want to overlook the fact that we need to pay our fair share,” Vaughn said. “We need to have some responsibility in this and that’s why we also want to hook up to city sewer and water for those time periods where we need just a little bit of a boost here or a boost there.”

The Public Works Committee discussed this request at its meeting on July 18 with Councilors Rudy Patch and Mary Loeken present, along with Public Works Supervisor Bob Klug and City Administrator Karin Elhard. Together they drafted a recommendation to the City Council that stated, “it would not be in the best interest of the city to allow private well drilling.”

“As a public works supervisor and head of the water department, I know that it would cost just as much to treat and supply water whether it would go on a football field or into a house,” Klug said. “The city has a multi-million dollar water system and if everyone disconnected and drilled their own well, who is going to pay for that system?”

City ordinance 113, subdivision 5, prevents the drilling of private wells within city water accessible areas. It also requires water distribution systems to connect to the public supply within one year unless given more time by the city.

“One of the reasons we decided not to allow it, is because it would open the door for other businesses in town that wanted private wells,” Loeken said. “We were looking out for the city. I saw it as, the city was going to lose money. We are here as a business. It wouldn’t be fair all around to just let the school (drill a well).”

Because the city is currently in the process of restructuring its water and sewer rates, the irrigation rate could change in the future when budgeting has been completed.