A great deal has been said during the past two or three years about the water situation in Peabody. Most residents abhor the taste, smell, and color of what comes from their tap. Even if they purchase bottled water for drinking, they do not want to cook, do laundry, or bathe in what the city provides. There are very few positive comments about it.
Here is a question for all of you who complain about it: What would you pay to fix it? How much would it be worth to you to begin a program of repair for the distribution system — all the pipes and joints and valves that have been underground for up to 100 years with no maintenance? Think about this seriously. If the city would implement a program to bring you better water, what would you be willing to pay?
The city council is looking at its budget for 2016. It has decided not to increase the mill levy. Members are working hard to hold taxes where they have been for five years. That is right, for five years the city has held the mill levy at roughly the same amount.
However, that has meant very little movement in any department, including water. A mill for the city is equal to about $4,000 dollars — perhaps a few hundred more. Replacing a block of water pipes costs roughly $15,000. So increasing the levy four mills would pay for only one block of pipe replacement in a year’s time. Discouraging, isn’t it? If we do not start now though, when will we start?
Here is some information I pulled from a July 1975 copy of the Peabody Gazette-Herald. I told you recently in this column that I had been digging around in some past issues that I had saved. Bill Krause, editor of the paper, was also a member of the city council in 1975. Apparently, that group had wrestled for many months with a proposal to purchase water from Newton Rural Water District.
At a meeting reported in the July 10 issue of the paper, NRWD had given Peabody a deadline. It was time to decide whether to go with the rural water district or stay with wells the city had used for 70-some years. The vote was 3-2 against joining. Krause, Jack Whisler, and Tom Grosse voted nay, and Jay Cook and Jay McClure voted to join.
Krause used his editorial to explain his vote. He said the main reason he voted against it was the cost and because “once Peabody is committed to the water supply from Newton, there are no options left for the next 40 years.” He was worried about Harvey County equus beds drying up, leaving consumers without a source of water. “Once committed, the citizens of Peabody would have an immediate heavy bonded indebtedness placed upon them,” he wrote.
In all fairness, he also noted “obvious advantages would be…the city might avoid some of the increasing burden of harassment and inspections from state and federal agencies” and “the ‘guarantee’ of sufficient water for our needs for the next 40 years.” Studies by the rural water district looked good and an agreement probably would have been good for Peabody, but he hated to vote in favor of something that would have a 40-year payment plan. He could not see tying the city to increased water costs until 2015!
That is right, if just one more member of that city council had voted in favor of it, we would have been hooked in to Newton Rural Water District all these years, and the cost of sending us water would be retired this year. Imagine that.
I admit hindsight is 20-20 and I certainly think those men had the community’s best interests at heart. The biggest problem now is not the water that comes from Hillsboro; it is aging pipes and that would still be a problem even if we were hooked up with Harvey County.
One of the ironies is that Peabody will make bond and interest payments for 40 years on the system we bought to bring water from Hillsboro. We also had no say in where we got the water. The state and federal governments told us what we would get, how we would get it here, and how much we would pay for it. And, the local distribution system is still a problem.
Perhaps the money spent for joining NRWD would not have been so prohibitive that we could not also have upgraded our underground pipes. Then again, perhaps nothing would have changed.
The question now is what do we want to do to fix this problem? It will not be free. We will have to decide whether we want to pay for it. In another 40 years, nothing will have changed as long as nothing changes. Contact your city council members and tell them what you want. If you are willing to begin some kind of program to upgrade the distribution system, maybe this year would be the year to begin. If we could set aside some money to make a few advances, perhaps we could create an incentive to save a bit more next year and then some more the year after that.
In no time, we will be 40 years down the road one more time. What improvements will we have made?