Belle Plaine Faces Water Restrictions, Vandalism

By Chris Earl, Reporter

BELLE PLAINE, Iowa - The trains that blow through Belle Plaine throughout the day also serve as a proper dividing line through town.

Especially during one of the worst droughts in decades.

The city has put out a strict water usage ordinance, banning people in Belle Plaine from washing their cars or other non-essential usage.

"We have five shallow wells that started to show some stress so we put on the restrictions," said mayor Dave Fish.

Belle Plaine residents are allowed to water their lawns, plants or trees one day a week and only at night. People living "north of the railroad tracks" can water on Mondays from 8 pm to 8 am. Others living south of the tracks on Tuesdays from 8pm to 8am.

Yet this action also comes after an incident that brought out law enforcement. City public works employees found at least three water hydrants tampered with and were losing thousands of gallons of water. City administrator Jim Daily said Thursday the vandalism led to the city water supply losing about 100,000 gallons -- all during a severe drought.

Belle Plaine Police Chief Kris Hudson said, in an email, at least three people were involved in the vandalism.

"I anticipate that two juvenile males will be referred to juvenile probation authorities and one adult male will be charged with criminal mischief," Hudson wrote.

Fish said that investigators and the school district will also handle discipline with those who let all of the water out.

"It was unfortunate but I taught school for 38 years and I've seen teenagers do a lot of crazy things," said Fish. "It's not the worst thing that's ever happened in the town of Belle Plaine."

Now with city water levels still at a critical point, Fish said Belle Plaine does have a sixth well but it is one that has not been used since the 1988 drought.

"A deep Artesian well," said Fish. "Artesian water is an acquired taste and it does not have the same taste and it has some rust appearance to it."

Like so many, he is just pushing "for a good soak" in the days ahead.

On the city's north side, Julie Northup was helping with the set-up for a Friday morning garage sale. She said there was a benefit from these dry days.

"It's saving us money," said Northup. "Not only in gas money but also not paying the neighbor kid to mow the grass."
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