Western Area Water Supply deferred the baseline water payments it owed to its members during the downturn so that it could make its loan payments, while industrial water sales weren’t high enough to cover them.
Now the entity is asking its members to forgive the deferred payments, and forgo an additional year of those baseline payments besides, so that it can build a reserve fund for future downturns.
The baseline was set at the level of 2010 water sales for members. WAWS collects anything in excess of that, as well as all industrial water sales, to pay back the costs of building out a water system that now serves 60,000 and growing people in a five-county area.
Jaret Wirth, executive director of WAWS, was at the Williston City Commission meeting Wednesday night to explain the game plan for the water system going forward.
Debt for Western Area Water Supply has been restructured to a longer period of time, and in some cases, a lower interest rate, he explained. This has lowered the monthly payments needed to repay the water system’s loans. The debts include not only buildout of the regional water system, but the debts for existing water systems, which WAWS assumed when it formed. The new debt payment is now a little more than a million a month.
“We do see bright times ahead with the contracts we see coming for industrial water,” Wirth said in a later interview. “There will be heavy demand for at least the next three to five years from what we are hearing, and we will continue to have water demands for the next 20 to 30 years through the drlll-out or production period.”
Wirth told commissioners that other member communities have already approved the amendment to their agreement with WAWS. Only Williston and Watford City remain. The latter is expected to take up the matter next week, and Wirth said he’s been told it will be approved.
“Now that the debt has been restructured, we do have a consistent number to shoot at,” Wirth said. “With the interest rates condensed and the terms lengthened out, that gives us better ability to pay those back. There was a big push not to have these on our books as we look for future bonding possibilities.”
Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl said he had not yet had a chance to run the numbers, and wanted an opportunity to do that before Williston approves it. He asked the board to table the matter to the next meeting.
The motion to table the matter was unanimously approved.
In other business the commission:
• Finished a public hearing on the abatement application from Woodspring Suites Hotel, which was requesting a reduction in value from $11.05 million to $8.5 million. They said the downturn depressed their values more than reflected by the assessment procedures. Commissioners voted to deny the abatement, saying that the process had been consistent with how every other property was assessed and that it had followed the code set forth for tax valuation.
• Approved a resolution moving forward with Street Improvement District 18-2 after a public protest hearing brought forth no complaints about the project. The work includes milling and asphalt overlay for Third Avenue West from Ferndale Boulevard to 18th Street, Fourth Avenue West from 14th street to a point 525 feet north of 18th street, Fifth Avenue wEst from 18th street to Fourth Avenue West and Ferndale Boulevard from Third to Fourth Avenue West. The city pays 50 percent of the project cost, while residents are assessed the remaining 50 percent based on a square foot basis. Knife River submitted the low bid for the project of $285,757, which compares to an engineer’s estimate for $425,000. In later action, commissioners awarded the bid to Knife River.
• Held a public hearing on the rezoning of four lots on East Broadway and North Dakota Highway 1804 from M1 Light industrial and M3 Industrial Park to HCC, Highway Corridor Commercial. The hearing had been delayed for an inspection by the Fire Department Chief Jason Catrambone, who found that a special permit isn’t needed, based on the type and quantity of flammable liquids being stored on the property. Commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning.
• Approved several construction bids, including: Doeden Construction in the amount of $97,800 for the annual sidewalk improvement district; Knife River for Street Improvement District 18-2 in the amount of $285,757; Strata for the 2018 street light project in the amount of $243,870; nd East West Excavating for 2018 water main replacement project in the amount of $469,271.02.
• Approved a bid to RDO equipment in the amount of $18,500 for grapple forks for the Public Works Department.
• Concurred with North Dakota Department of Transportation’s recommendation to award a construction contract to Knife River for $364,484 for the 14th avenue West Mill and Overlay project.
• Approved resolutions necessary to authorize advertisement for bids for construction of District 18-3 water, sewer and street improvements.
• Accepted an engineering services agreement with Alliance Engineering Services for the 2018 water main replacement project for a fee billed hourly not to exceed $239,700.
• Approved an engineering services agreement with Ulteig for District 18-3 to be billed hourly not to exceed $471,850 and for East Dakota Parkway for a fee billed hourly not to exceed $453,830.
• Approved a Flex PACE buydown for Edman Commercial Holdings in an amount not to exceed $32,000 and for Grace & Glam in an amount not to exceed $33,528.
• Approved a community growth grant of $25,000 for Lutheran Social Services to remodel their lower level so it can house a daycare. This will allow them to take in more children, and more infants. Estimated total cost of the remodel is $200,000.
• Approved a $13,000 community growth grant to Williston Economic Development to bring in consultant Roger Brooks to meet with community leaders, business owners and developers in regards to a plan for promoting Williston.