The Ottumwa Courier


June 13, 2013

City, water works troubles water under the bridge

OTTUMWA — The formerly rocky relationship between the city and Ottumwa Water Works and Hydro is now a cooperative, collaborative one, say city officials.

Communication between the two entities was strained last year after an argument at a City Council meeting led to accusations that the water works board of trustees was difficult to work with and its staff unprofessional. This prompted city and water works staff to organize more frequent meetings to re-establish lines of communication and strengthen the relationship — and it's worked, both sides say.

"I would say from a relationship standpoint, it's quite a bit better off than it was a year ago," said water works general manager Mike Heffernan. "We had a couple pretty significant issues a year ago last winter. We got by those and right now it's business as usual."

Debates about a water main by the Kohl's development and the transfer of control of Black Lake put some strain on the relationship.

"The city didn't want to relocate the water line [on Wildwood Drive]; they just wanted to cover it up when they put the new street in," Heffernan said of the Kohl's development. "Right now I think it's buried 10 to 15 feet deep and we thought it should be 5 to 6 feet deep. When they raised the street, we thought they should raise the water line up, too."

Water works also struggled with the decision to transfer control of Black Lake to the city to later be used by John Deere Ottumwa Works for its sewer separation project.

"We really didn't want to give up control because it is our third source of water, but the board did finally agree to go ahead and transfer Black Lake," he said.

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