TF Council addresses community watering
September 24, 2020
After years of planning, Ainsworth Park is officially complete, however, the work for the Thompson Falls City Council is not over. For their September meeting the council discussed working on a use permit for groups and organizations interested in hosting events at the new park. The city has an event permit, but they believe that with Ainsworth, considering the expense put into its facilities, there needs to be a permit unique to the park. During the discussion they talked about fees, insurance and ordinance waivers related to such a permit.
The council is working on a fence around the park to keep vehicles out and is going to keep the park closed until the spring. This is being done to protect the grass and to give it a start before people tread on it, according to Thompson Falls Mayor Mark Sheets. “We should keep people off to give the grass a chance,” he said.
Another issue brought up was mentioned by City Council member Ruth Cheney. She addressed questions from residents about why the graveyard, commonly referred to as the “veterans cemetery,” is not being watered. She said it is because the pump is down, but she believes that there could be a better and faster way of getting that information out to the public. Cheney said, “we should use a platform people are using to get information out more efficiently.” Cheney referred to the City Council creating a Facebook page to post information immediately when they have it. According to City Clerk Chelsea Peterson, the city already has a Facebook page, but they rarely use it. Cheney’s point was supported by Council President Raoul Ribeiro. “It’s a way of reaching people that we don’t reach right now.”
The mayor was not in support of the idea, mentioning that it may create more distractions during the workday in the office. Peterson also opposed the idea, saying that she would not want to post any kind of public information herself, and thinks that if anyone should put that information out it should be directly from the mayor. Other council members were hesitant to support the idea of posting publicly certain information through a non-traditional form of communication. “I’m not promoting Facebook, I’m promoting getting information out in a timely manner,” said Cheney.
The issue was motioned to be looked into by Ribeiro. The council agreed to look more into using social media to communicate information to the public, and many of them thought the idea had merit, if they could block notifications, comments and messages from the public. They want to avoid creating a space for contention among the community and would like it to remain simply an information conveyance tool.
Regarding the water pumps, Public Works Director Neil Harnett said, “the amount of water being used compared to what is being produced is resulting in the pumps having to pump so long that they overheat and kick off.” Harnett said that there is not enough storage in the tanks to fill the demand, so the irrigation has been shut off to the cemetery and some parks.
The first problem starts at the springs. The city says that they used to run at 200 gallons per minute, now they are only producing 165 gallons per minute. The city also utilizes two wells near Mount Silcox Drive. They run at 485 and 110 gallons per minute. The city is considering doing a hydraulic study to add another well. The new well could cost around $200,000 to $300,000, but the city also needs a new water storage tank. They estimate the cost for this at around $2 million. According to Harnett, the city needs a 1-million-gallon tank to meet its needs. There are also concerns about the existing tanks. The one at Ashley Creek was built in the early 1980s and has a small leak which has been repaired several times. Another, on Jefferson Street, needs to be replaced as it was built in 1936.
Much of the strain on water resources comes from the addition of the new ball field and Ainsworth Park, houses that have been built on vacant lots and the addition of many trees throughout the town needing watering. The city will look into any possible issues, including searching for a leak in the numerous old city pipes that need to be replaced. According to the city, approximately 30% of water is not being metered. They attribute that to areas that are not metered such as the parks, cemeteries, city hall, the city shop, the community center, Wild Goose Landing and the dog park. The city is looking into a feasibility study to get the parks metered through funding in the Parks and Recreation Department. Currently the city has been tabling this idea to make room for more pressing matters being discussed.
The next City Council meeting has been moved since it fell on Columbus Day. The council voted to change the date to Tuesday, October 13, at 6:15 p.m. at the Thompson Falls Community Center.