Heated discussion over Waterworks and Hydro Board

At Tuesdayâ??s Ottumwa City Council meeting, things got heated up between some council members concerning the cityâ??s relationship with the Ottumwa Waterworks and Hydro Board.

According to Ottumwa Public Information Officer Tom Rodgers, the Waterworks and Hydro Board is an independent board that oversees the affairs of the department.

This is done to keep â??the politicsâ?? out of utilities.

However, it is the responsibility of the Mayor to appoint members to the board. Also, the budget of the Waterworks and Hydro Department does go before the city council every year.

Some within the city believe the board is difficult to work with on some issues, including a proposed sewer separation project with John Deere.

According to Council Member Jeremy Weller, John Deere has proposed to separate the sewers that are just adjacent to its property, at a cost of $5 million. That would save taxpayers and estimated 5% on their sewer bill.

The property John Deere is asking to help with the separation is a lagoon located northwest of the roundabout on the east side of town. The lagoon is specified as one of the alternative water supplies for Ottumwa.

If the Waterworks and Hydro Board were to ask the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to add the lagoon in question to its alternative water supplies today, they could be denied due to pollution concerns, therefore it was grandfathered in.

According to Council Member Weller, it is not the city that is holding up this project and saving taxpayers money, it is the Waterworks and Hydro Board.

Weller does admit though that it is hard to get people to serve on these types of boards.

â??We donâ??t have people beating down the door to serve on boards. I really do not like the idea of removing them (board members). Letâ??s talk to them, figure out our issues and see if we can come to a mutual agreement that benefits everybody,â?? said Weller.

Weller believes that members of the council, along with the cityâ??s administration should sit down and work with them, instead of complaining about the situation.

â??I donâ??t want it to appear we are demanding things. Letâ??s sit down and figure out what is best for everybody, and that is the best way to move forward,â?? said Weller.