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February 28, 1995

The current dialogue now going on about the possibility of Lake McMurtry becoming a new water supply for the city of Perry brings to mind an interesting point concerning the many recent improvements already made to upgrade our water processing and distribution system.

Councilman Bob O'Halloran is a hard-nosed, plain-speaking businessman. He is not running for reelection this year, so his thoughts on this subject are not simply politically motivated. But he is proud of the financing method used for the city's new water flow line leading from the Perry Lake reservoir southwest of town to the brand new treatment plant on the old R. J. Huston farm.

The line project was budgeted by the city at $400,000 and it was completed for just about that exact amount. Bob says, based on an early unofficial estimate, city taxpayers thereby were saved about $600,000.

How did that happen? Well, several months ago, when a bond issue was being discussed to solve some of the city's chronic water problems, the cost of a 12-inch flow line was calculated to be in the neighborhood of $1 million, according to an unofficial but credible estimate. It would have been part of a bond issue package with a total cost of around $4.5 million.

To lighten the load on taxpayers, the city council pulled the water line out of the bond issue and concentrated on building a new water treatment plant for about $3.5 million. That's what the bond issued covered.

Meanwhile, funds for the flow line were accumulated by the city from normal revenue and the job was completed for about $400,000, not $1 million. (All these figures are rounded off to simplify this report.) No bond issue money was needed for the water line. Bob figures the city thus handed local residents a real bargain

By my calculation, that $600,000 saving amounts to $120 for every Perry man, woman and child, based on a population of 5,000. (I don't care what the Census Bureau says.) The checks are in the mail. Right, Bob?

In addition, the city is using regular revenue to pay for a major upgrading of the distribution system all around town to insure better delivery of processed water to city homes and businesses. No bond issue needed there, either.

Thus, we should be able to avoid the traditional July and August water rationing edicts this year with the completion of this important project. The old reservoir southwest of town should remain pretty full, although heavily silted, barring a prolonged drought. The new flow line should handle pressurized delivery of water from the lake to the treatment plant. The plant can process a large volume in fairly short order, and that should enable the storage tanks to maintain line pressure and to hold enough water to satisfy our needs even in the most torrid summer heat.

Almost makes you eager for the arrival of those 104-degree temperatures to test out the system, doesn't it? Or maybe not.

Now we're seeing an even brighter glimmer of hope on the horizon for a long-term solution to the water problem in Perry. If the Lake McMurtry purchase becomes a reality for the city, we will acquire a reservoir approximately two and a half times larger than Perry Lake. The McMurtry property consists of about 3,400 acres, most of it Noble county land acquired by Stillwater in the 1970s when the lake was intended to be used as a water supply for the city of Stillwater. It has never been used for that purpose.

A lot of work lies ahead for our city officials to sort all this out and come up with a reasonable plan of action. Meanwhile, thanks to the work that already has been accomplished, we can feel pretty good about our water system for at least this summer.