Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vian, Water Officials Work on Conflicts

A meeting between Vian officials and officials with the Sequoyah County Water Association (SCWA) went well Monday night.

Vance Mooney, SCWA manager, said, “It went good. We had a good dialogue. It was the best meeting so far.”

Sequoyah County Water Association is investing in a new water plant and new water storage at Lake Tenkiller, to increase available potable water from 2 million gallons a day to 5 million gallons a day. The new plant and water source has caused a water rate increase, which the Town of Vian is unwilling to pay.

Garner Garrison, SCWA board chairman, said the wholesale rate increase is, for Vian, about 90 cents per 1,000 gallons. The price went from $2.30 to $3.20 per 1,000 gallons in March.

Vian officials argue that is too much, and have refused to pay. They argue the price increase is not in their contract with SCWA.

When SCWA threatened to turn off the water taps in September for Vian’s refusal to pay, Vian asked for an injunction from Sequoyah County District Court in Sallisaw, and got it, with an order to work on a contract.

Vance said Vian officials agreed to pay the $3.20 at Monday’s meeting, but Vian officials are still worried about the 1 percent increase per year included in the new contract. 

Vance said the SCWA has to have the yearly increase because of the continuing increases in producing and delivering potable water.

Cost, Vance said, “is a moving target. We don’t know what it will cost in a year.”

Vance said officials are calling other water providers to determine how best to word increasing costs in contracts. 

“We plan on another meeting soon” to work on the contract, Mooney said.

Garrison explained the reason for the cost increase. The SCWA is planning on building a new water treatment plant at Lake Tenkiller, the association’s water source. He said the present water treatment plant can process 2 million gallons of water per day.

When the association had an engineer do a study on increasing the water supply, the engineer recommended a new plant. The association board then approved a plant that will process 5 million gallons of water per day, and will cost $22 million, to be paid by a grant and loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Garrison said residential customers were paying $35 a month for the first 2,000 gallons. To help pay for the improvements, the cost increased to $41 a month for the first 2,000 gallons as of March 1. 

The association has 5,948 residential customers throughout the county and supplies Rural Water District 5 at Gore, the Town of Vian, and some water to Muldrow. Vian has about 700 residential customers.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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