Havre Daily News
The Havre City Council on Monday
night approved a 7.7-million-gallon-perday
cushion, guaranteeing a supplemental
supply of drinking water for future
generations, but not without dissenting
voices who said too many questions remain.
After nearly an hour of debate, which
included a strong showing of favorable
public support, the City Council voted 5-
3 to join the Rocky Boy’s/North Central
Montana Regional Water System.
The result drew applause from
among an audience numbering about 35.
Havre chose one of three scenarios.
The city will be required to purchase
about 35 percent of its total water usage,
about 3 million gallons a day, from the
system when it is built. Havre officials
will have the option of upping Havre’s
take to 7.7 million gallons per day,
Havre’s projected peak demand in 2050.
The option allows the city to continue
to use its water supply from Milk River
and its water treatment plant indefinitely.
When constructed, the project will
supply water to more than 26,000 residents
of north-central Montana and
Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.
Proponents believe the system, which
will be supplied by the largely
unclaimed waters of Lake Elwell, will
secure the future economic health of
Havre and the region. They also say the
city’s use of the Milk River is unreliable
because of needed repairs to the St.
Mary diversion facilities, which augment
the flow of the Milk. The regional
water system has been approved by
Congress and is estimated to cost $267million.
“If we’re going to sustain any
growth, we have to guarantee water
whether it be residential or industry,”
City Council member Allen “Woody”
Woodwick said today. “I don’t have the
sense that the Milk River is going to be a reliable source.”
City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing agreed.
“We need to have that extra water
coming to Havre if we expect to have
any growth at all,” she said today. “I
really believe this is the wise thing to
do. ... This is an opportunity for us to move forward.”
North Central Montana Regional
Water Authority executive committee
member Shaud Schwarzbach said he
was please with the City Council’s decision.
“They were given the facts
and I think they made an excellent
decision,” he said after the meeting.
Woodwick and Mayer Lossing
joined Terry Schend, Pam
Hillery and Bob Kaftan in voting
to support the city’s connection.
City Council president Rick
Pierson and members Jack
Brandon and Gerry Veis voted against the measure.
“I’m not against joining ... I
was against joining under the
conditions that exist right now
with the system,” Brandon said
after the vote. “I think there are
too many unanswered questions.
“I represent the voters of this
city, and I tried to talk to as
many people as I could, and I
heard more no’ than yes,’” he added.
He noted that two Veis and
public works director Dave
Peterson of Havre’s three representatives
on the water authority
board spoke out against the
system. The third member,
Havre Mayor Bob Rice, did not
comment on the system.
Peterson called the system “a
great asset,” but said he was
concerned about cost when combined
with the price of muchneed
repairs to the city’s distribution system.
“You can bring me all the
water you want, but if I can’t get
it out to people to use, what good
is that water?” he said.
Havre joins eight other communities
that have joined the
system. Two more Galata
County and Sweet Grass water
districts will vote on participation
this week, and Cut Bank will
vote next week, project coordinator
Annmarie Robinson said.
Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson official
Joe Dooling today said that,
depending on how many communities
join and at what capacity,
Havre users will pay a base rate
between $12 and $14.50 and pay
$1.16 per 1,000 gallons.
Users now pay $10.04 each
month plus $2.15 per 1,000 gallons,
and those costs may rise in
coming months. Some city officials
are calling for a $10 to $15
increase in the base rate and a
possible increase in the volume
fee. The money, they say, is
needed for repairs to the city’s water system.
Public comment played a
noted role in the debate, with
City Council members and officials
saying they’d heard numerous
comments from the public,
both in support and opposing.
About a half-dozen residents
in spoke Monday night in favor
of the city’s connection.
“It looks to me like this is a
no-brainer,” insurance salesman
Dick Schafer said. “We can’t put this off.
“This is Montana. Our average
rainfall is less than 12 inches
a year. ... We have to take what
we can get,” he added.
Retired railroad carman Bob
Kaul said he supported the system
with future generations in mind.
“If something was to happen
to the Milk River, we’re a dead
operation,” he said. After the
vote, he thanked the City Council
on behalf of “my children, my
grandchildren and anyone else
who decides to stay in Havre.”
One resident spoke in opposition,
questioning whether Havre
users can afford the increase in water rates.
“The bottom line is: Can you
afford it?” Mike Topolosky said.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice, who
could not be reached for comment
today, called the decision
“probably the toughest vote” he’s
seen in his five years in office.
“Thank the Lord we put this
one to bed,” he said after the
votes were counted.