Ellis Approves Conservation Water Rate



Minutes  August 8, 2013


Council President Jolene Niernberger called the meeting to order at 7:04 p.m. Present were Council members John Walz, Stephen A. Ferland, Terry Redetzke, and Loran Gottschalk. Also present was Public Works Director Alan Scheuerman, City Clerk Amy Burton, Police Chief Taft Yates, and City Attorney Olavee Raub. Mayor Lyle Johnston and Council member John Leiker were unable to attend.





Annie Sandmeier, Scott Ross, Ron Johnson, Julie Kohl, Matt Windholz, Dan Freese, Luke Fanshier, Rusty Redding, Joyce Carthew, Jim Carthew, Dean Gottschalk, Neil DeWerff


Council President Jolene Niernberger stated the purpose of the special meeting was to have guest speakers present to discuss the water exploration process, consider a request for a water variance from Ellis Golf Club, and to consider an ordinance on conservation water rates.

Water: Special Meeting

Rusty Redding, Layne Christensen, stressed to Council the importance of rehabilitating existing wells to increase efficiency. Certain contaminants such as iron and manganese can coat the screens of the well which slows production by making it harder to pump the water out. Mr. Redding also explained three different water sources – 1) the alluvial aquifer is the least expensive option because it is close to the surface, but water flow is slow because the aquifer is shallow; 2) the Ogallala aquifer is the next depth and contains quality water but also is high in iron and manganese, and sometimes arsenic; 3) the Dakota aquifer is the most expensive to explore because it is the deepest layer and is high in chlorides, sulfates and fluorides, which Ellis’ water treatment plant isn’t capable of cleaning out.

Scott Ross, Division of Water Resources, presented Council with a map of the different types of wells currently in surrounding counties. He said the City could probably find water rights, but finding water could be another story. Ellis sits on the edge of one of the “fingers” of the Ogallala aquifer and he doubted the City would be able to find a big producing well. Mr. Ross also cautioned the City on mixing alluvium water and Ogallala water as the water chemistry can conflict. Water should be tested first to determine compatibility.

Rusty Redding noted that securing a supplemental water source could take a minimum of 3-4 years so it is important to continue to maintain the wells the City has and to continue to encourage residents to be good stewards of the City’s water.

Dan Freese, Layne Christensen, gave a presentation on the importance of implementing a well maintenance program. Wells should be routinely tested and rehabilitated to increase efficiency in the wells and detect well or pumping problems. Mr. Freese recommended the City implement a well rehabilitation rotation schedule to maintain efficiency and possibly head off major repairs and down time. The City should plan on rehabbing the wells and also explore additional water sources.

The consensus of the speakers was that the City should start looking into the exploration of new water sources and to also start thinking about financing. The process of purchasing land for a well, obtaining water rights, drilling the well and piping the water could cost the City several million dollars. Even if the City would purchase land with an existing well on it, a new well would have to be drilled in order to meet municipal supply standards. Certain grants could be available to help with the costs involved, but the City would still have substantial expenses for the process.

Water: Policy

The Council then considered a letter of request for a water variance from the Ellis Golf Club. Council President Jolene Niernberger stated Council is in limbo because the golf course straddles two classes of water use, one of which is prohibited from watering under Stage 3 water restrictions. City Attorney Olavee Raub stated the conservation plan definitions need to be clarified, but a short term solution could be setting parameters of what to allow. Councilmember John Walz suggested setting a limit on gallons of water allowed until the conservation plan is revised. Council expressed a desire to come to a reasonable solution agreeable to both parties. Councilmember Loran Gottschalk made a motion that Council recognizes that due to the commercial nature of the Golf Club and the services provided to the public, that some water use is necessary, and that the Ellis Golf Club be allowed to use water to maintain the greens only at an amount not to exceed 40,000 gallons of water each month at the standard water rate. Councilmember Terry Redetzke seconded the motion. Upon further discussion the Council asked if a Public Works employee could read the Golf Club’s meters every two weeks to keep them apprised of their usage to date. Attorney Raub suggested establishing an ending date for the variance. Therefore, Councilmember Gottschalk amended his motion to add an ending date of March 1, 2014 for the watering variance. Councilmember Redetzke amended his second. Upon a call for a vote, motion passed 5-0.

Water: City Code

Council performed a second reading of the proposed ordinance implementing conservation water rates for usage in excess of each customer’s base usage. Wording has been added under section (b) to apply the conservation water rate only during Stage 3 of the water conservation plan. John Walz moved and Steve Ferland seconded a motion to approve Ordinance 1356 as presented. Motion carried 5-0.


Councilmember Terry Redetzke moved to adjourn the meeting. Councilmember Steve Ferland seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.