The Lewis and Clark Water Project was a main topic of discussion at Wednesday’s Sheldon City Council meeting. City Manager Scott Wynja reported on concerns about the future of the project which is basically on hold because the Federal Government has not met their share of the funding. The problem became more of an issue when congress banned ‘earmarks’, a process whereby members of Congress could add their favorite projects to the federal budget. However, that legislation also banned earmarks for projects that had already been approved by congress. This leaves Lewis and Clark without the funding they need to expand to communities such as Sheldon, Hull, Worthington and Luverne.
Wynja explained that the Lewis and Clark agreement provides for the use of the “Capital Call” approach. Under this provision. the Board of Directors could issue a capital call to members in order to fund construction for the upcoming fiscal year that is not anticipated to be covered by federal or state appropriations. A vote is scheduled for October 24th which if approved, would call on the member communities to raise $18.4 million dollars to extend the pipeline to Luverne, Minnesota. Sheldon’s share of this would be seven hundred thousand dollars. Federal funding, if it becomes available, would be used first to repay members for their capital call payment, without interest. This idea was not met with favor by the Sheldon Council and they voted to instruct Wynja to vote against the capital call. Wynja said that had been his intention as well.
The idea of Sheldon leaving Lewis and Clark was discussed. Under the Lewis and Clark rules, a member could ask to have the System declared abandoned which would trigger a reconstitution of the Corporation among its eleven connected members while some or all of the unconnected members could be forced out, receiving only the return of their actual cash investment. Sheldon’s investment already totals over two million dollars. Some council members expressed the possibility of taking this route before October 24th to avoid the possibility of having to pay another seven hundred thousand dollars. Wynja will confer with the City Attorney and Lewis and Clark Attorney on this matter.
One other possibility is to go to the State of Iowa for the money needed to complete the project in Iowa, with that money being paid back by Federal Funds if they ever become available. A plan of this type is being seriously discussed in Minnesota.
Another possibility for Sheldon is a connection with the Lyon/Sioux Rural water system. Wynja told the council that discussions with their system continue, as they are open to talking about all options.
In the meantime, Sheldon continues to depend a great deal on hard water from the deep well for much of its water as there has not been enough rain to recharge the shallow wells. And the City of Hull is looking for an additional water supply to make it possible for the cheese plant to go ahead with expansion of their facilities.
We’ll have more Sheldon City Council News on KIWA’S Friday news reports.