Village Council

Springfield no longer water option

In an unexpected move, Village Council members at their April 21 meeting took sourcing water from Springfield off the table, so that rehabbing the Village water plant or building a new Village plant remain Council’s only choices for how best to source local water.

“I feel better about where this is going than I have in a long time,” Council President Karen Wintrow said at the end of the Council discussion.

The decision to drop purchasing water from Springfield arose during a discussion of how best to move forward with the water sourcing issue, which Council has been considering for almost two years. Prompted by the problems with the Village’s 50-year-old plant — emphasized by a recent breakdown in the plant’s filter system — Council had planned to weigh four water sourcing options in upcoming months: building a new plant, with and without water softening; rehabbing the current plant; or purchasing water from Springfield. While former Village Manager Laura Curliss had advocated for purchasing Springfield water as the least expensive option, some villagers raised concerns about Springfield’s potential environmental problems, and the value of maintaining a local water system.

Council is now ready to move forward with the issue after a significant delay, since it recently received a report from environmental engineer John Eastman that compares the costs and impacts of each option. Council did not discuss Eastman’s report on April 21, but rather considered how best to proceed.

But during the discussion, Council members individually expressed their own preferences.
“Water is such a critical resource that it behooves us to keep our own system,” Council member Marianne MacQueen stated, saying she believed most villagers want water to remain local.

Council Vice-President Lori Askeland agreed, stating, “I also think Springfield is almost off the table for me.” Council member Gerry Simms stated that he favors constructing a new plant over rehabbing the old one, since a rehab offers only a relatively short-term solution.

At this point, Wintrow observed that all Council members seemed to be saying that they’d like to take Springfield off the table, and Council members agreed.

Taking Springfield out of the mix makes the upcoming decision simpler, according to consultant Eastman, who also said he believes the remaining options are good ones.

“My real sense is that Yellow Springs doesn’t have a bad option, but maybe it has a best option,” Eastman said, stating that if the Village keeps its water local, “whichever choice is made, we’ll have a safe and reliable source of water.”

In considering how best to move ahead, Council members agreed not to create a citizen task force, which Wintrow had suggested at a recent meeting. Creating a task force would prolong an already long process, Askeland said, citing concerns from Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman that the Village should move as quickly as possible due to potential problems with fire-fighting. Instead, Council agreed to task Village Water Plant Superintendent Joe Bates, Electric and Water Distribution Superintendent Johnny Burns and Interim Manager Kent Bristol to meet with Eastman to consider remaining questions around the water sourcing issue. Some of the questions, as articulated in a written statement by Wintrow, include the value of water softening to the community, and the infrastructure and environmental impacts of providing or not providing softened water. The group will also ask major Village water users, such as YSI, Antioch College and the Yellow Springs Brewery, to weigh in on how softening or not softening would affect their business. Council members also asked villagers with expertise in the subject to offer advice.

Council asked the Village staff group to respond to the questions by late May, after which Council will hold a special meeting to decide on the issue.

Other items on Council’s April 21 agenda will be covered in next week’s News.

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