Palo Residents Speak Out About New Water System After Receiving City Letter
By Jill Kasparie, Reporter
PALO, Iowa – Tempers flare as the city starts to enforce participation in its new water system.
The city of Palo is in the process of revamping its water system. The $6 million project includes a new water tower, a water treatment facility, wells and water mains. Homeowners used to get their water out their own wells. Now, the city has installed its first-ever municipal water system.
Not everyone, however, wants to hook in. In fact, some are angry and feel they are being forced to join the system.
According to the city, about 115 of the 400 households in Palo still need to hook into the new system. Council members said everyone within city limits need to take part in the new system.
People acknowledge they've known that they need to connect, but they said the city’s deadlines weren't clear. So, when they got a letter from the city a couple weeks ago, they were caught off guard. It said residents need to connect to the system by Aug. 31 or face fines of $750 to $1,000. The letter stated that the fine could increase daily if people didn't hook in.
"It runs right up to the side of my house,” said Don Gilbertson.
Gilbertson said he's just finishing the plumbing inside his house. In a matter of weeks, he'll officially tap into the new water system. He didn't want to pay any extra fines.
"Everyone in town that wasn't hooked up received the letter. To me it was threatening that they were going to levy such a big fine against us,” Gilbertson said.
The letter created a big crowd at the Palo City Council meeting. Most of them weren't happy about the city's letter or the high fines.
“We are being forced to take water that we do not want to take,” said one resident.
“How are we going to afford all of this,” said another resident.
Everyone who lives in Palo is required by the city to pay a contractor to install a residential water line from the curb to their house. That can cost hundreds of dollars.
Some people, like Emily Packingham, are frustrated.
"We're looking at around $1,500 to have that water line put in and hooked up, which we can't afford. I have four children,” Packingham said.
The discussion over the up-coming deadline created a lot of debate. Even council members sounded off. Despite the debate, the final piece of the project is under way. Construction on the water treatment plant is expected to wrap up by the end of this year.
"It's good to have a safe drinking water source that is protected and tested to make sure, to ensure, it's protected and that the drinking water is safe,” said Matt Wildman with the city’s consulting Firm, HR Green.
By the end of the meeting, the council opted to offer residents an extension. They now have until Nov. 15 to hook into the new water system. Council members said at the end of all of this, the water project is needed as Palo grows. One council member said city water hook ups help entice new businesses to come to the city.
The city is paying for the project with grant money.
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