The Winthrop Town Council will consider an ordinance update that would prohibit the drilling of any new wells within town limits, and would also ban the resale of town water by local customers.
The well issue was discussed at last week’s council meeting at the prompting of Public Works Supt. Jeff Sarvis, who wrote in a memo to the mayor and council that the town should take steps to protect its water source.
“Winthrop is the sole provider of water within its town limits or service boundary,” Sarvis wrote. “The drilling of private wells, if allowed, could compete for the same water as the town relies on for our customers.”
Sarvis also recommended that “the current code language be changed to prohibit resale of Winthrop’s public drinking water.” He said the public works staff is “aware of reselling water for construction purposes. Winthrop provides a truck station for the purchase of water for construction, firefighting, etc.” Access to that station is controlled by town staff, he said.
“Readily available water for use in public water systems is limited and should be developed and used efficiently,” Sarvis said. The town has one well, he said, that draws from area approximating the town limits.
“The protection of our groundwater resource is critical,” Sarvis said at the council meeting. “We ought to be the only water provider in town.” A survey of nearby towns showed that almost all of them prohibit private wells, he said. There are only a few existing private wells in town that he knows of, Sarvis said, and they won’t be asked to stop operating.
Sarvis said recent improvements to the water system have reduced the amount of “unaccounted for” water (the difference between what is pumped and what is used) from about 40% to around 13%.
Staff will come back to the council with proposed ordinance language in the near future, Mayor Sally Ranzau said.
In other business, the council:
• Approved appointment of Ardis Bynum to the Westernization Design Review Board (WDRB), and Taylor Russell to the Planning Commission. Six of the seven positions on the WDRB are now filled; and six of the seven Planning Commission positions are also filled.
• Approved a request by Sarvis to amend the current budget to allow for purchase and installation of about $21,000 worth of emergency repair equipment for the water treatment plant.
• Heard Ranzau report that Burma-Shave style greeting signs were being installed at two places on Highway 20 to remind visitors to wear masks. The signs read, in order “Howdy Partner,” “Mask-up!” and “Keep Winthrop Safe.”
• Learned from Ranzau that the town is lobbying the state for consideration to open the Winthrop Rink as scheduled in early November under appropriate coronavirus protection protocols, as it is an outdoor facility. Ranzau said opening the rink is important “for the health of the community and the economy.”