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North End edging toward merger

The room was practically bursting at the seams Thursday evening, with more North End Water Users Inc. customers waiting in the hallway for an update about the pending merger of their water service with Northwest Rural Water District.

North End Water Users voted in favor of the merger in March. Customers were lined up at University of Wyoming Powell Research and Extension Center to get the update and sign up for inclusion in Northwest’s system.

Two of North End’s three wells tested above Environmental Protection Agency nitrate levels in 2008. All the wells are safe now, but the non-profit organization is working to find a safer means to deliver water to its 205 taps north of Powell.

“The system’s sort of hitting its expiration date,” said Tod Stutzman, president of the North End board.

According to a 2009 report by Engineering Associates in Cody, Northwest Rural is the most tenable alternative for providing potable water to North End customers.

Being a district, Northwest can pursue grants that a private entity like North End can’t, said Jerry Faxon Monday morning.

Faxon lives in Powell now, but the former North End customer recalls hauling water with his grandfather before the beginning of North End Users in the 1960s.

“Being able to turn the tap on is pretty nice,” he said.

Pursuing the merger “is about the only thing they can do, I think,” Faxon said.

To receive Northwest water, North End users are required to petition for inclusion in Northwest’s district.

“We want to get started on the paperwork tonight,” said Northwest District Manager Dosie Overfield.

Forty-two petitions were completed Thursday evening at the meeting. Many people were sent home to collect additional signatures if they were needed, or to obtain a legal description of their property, Overfield said Friday morning.

It will be at least 2014 before North End users receive Northwest water as the district strives to obtain grants and loans for the pipeline.

Overfield and the Northwest Rural Water District board have said they want the 46 miles of pipe in the 44-year-old system replaced before the district will assume water service for North End Water Users.

Initially, it was believed it would cost $8.7 million to complete the project, but the figure has been reduced to $7.5 to $8 million, Cody Schatz explained in a PowerPoint presentation. Schatz is an engineer at Engineering Associates.

The cost was reduced because it is an existing system with easements, permits, contingency, legal fees and engineering costs already in place, Schatz said.

With its current plan, the district would have around $6 million in grants and $1.5 million in loans to replace the aging waterline, Schatz said.

The estimated monthly cost per tap would be $55 to $60. North End users would pay $16.60 for operation and maintenance, $9 for Shoshone Municipal Pipeline that provides Northwest with water, $6 for 4,000 gallons of water ($1.50 per 1,000 gallons) and $23.75 in construction debt costs for a total of $55.35.

Existing Northwest users pay $45.60 for the same package. The only difference between the two is the additional $9.75 that former North End users will pay to cover the cost of their pipeline construction.

“I’m kind of sad because we kind of had a vested interest in it (North End),” said Peggy Blasdell. Blasdell and her husband, Craig, live on Lane 8.

She was referring to the users’ private ownership of North End.

“Kind of like we ain’t got much choice,” said Craig Blasdell.

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