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Commission not happy with Otter Creek water proposal

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland commissioners are still saying a better deal needs to be put on the table if officials in Otter Creek hope to have Chiefland supply water to the town.

Otter creek has been ordered by the state to remedy its polluted drinking water, but three out of five Chiefland commissioners Monday night said they were not in favor of the deal, which would pump water to the town through a 12-mile pipe at a price less than what some Chiefland water users pay.

"Everyone I talked to said they do not want water sold for less than they pay," Mayor Teal Pomeroy said, echoing sentiments expressed by Commissioner Rollin Hudson since discussion on the matter began late last year. Pomeroy, however, did not explicitly state he was against the deal.

Newly elected commissioners Betty Walker and Chris Jones were firm in their objections.

"We've got to think about Chiefland," Walker said, adding that, even if rates were the same, there's a potential wells could run dry in the future.

Initial talks proposed Otter Creek pay only 76 percent of what Chiefland residents inside city limits pay. Hudson, in past discussions, said the offer was a slap in the face to residents and for those who live just outside city limits who pay an additional 25 percent for city water. Otter Creek, at a minimum, should be paying that added 25 percent, he said.

Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, who has been heading up negotiations with Otter Creek, said early on the lower rate for Otter Creek was to make it possible for them to secure loans and grants to pay for the project.

At a meeting a few weeks ago, she said a compromise had been put on the table that would have the town pay 125 percent after the first 12,600 gallons per day of water used. She reiterated the point Monday night.

"So, that would make up for the difference as they grow," she said.

But Pomeroy cut her off, stating that the majority of the commission had already expressed its dissatisfaction with the deal.

"Has anybody talked to Otter Creek about dissolving and letting the county take over?" Pomeroy asked.

Hudson again said he didn't feel good about Otter Creek getting a better deal than Chiefland, and he said he is unhappy with the 40-year loan that Otter Creek would be saddled with.

Previous talks suggested Chiefland wouldn't have ownership of its half of the pipeline, about 5 miles between the two towns, until that 40-year loan had been taken care of.

Barron said the pipeline, no matter when it's acquired, is worth enough to make up the difference. And, she said, it could be possible to work out ownership of Chiefland's half of the pipe at an earlier date.

Previous talks also included the advantages the pipeline could have on allowing for city expansion toward Otter Creek, as well as the upgrade to pipes on the south end of town.

Pomeroy, addressing City Attorney Norm Fugate on how he should proceed with the legalities of the matter, said, "The only way we can see it happening is at 125 percent. "