Submitted by Senator Ogden Driskill
It is a monumental task to represent both sides of an issue at the same time. There will never be a time when both sides feel treated fairly in such a situation.
This is exactly what has happened in the case of the Gillette Regional Water System.
I feel the facts have been skewed and misrepresented in the portrayal of what has occurred in this instance.
I will start with the fact that the amendment as passed by the Wyoming Legislature and signed by the governor if enacted will cost the City of Gillette and the taxpayers of Campbell County nothing. If they choose to hook onto the Gillette Regional Water System, customers in Crook County will hook onto an existing eight-inch distribution line.
This line is already in place and will cost the regional system nothing.
Any Crook County resident hooking onto the existing pipeline will pay the exact tap fee as someone in Gillette. Their water will cost the same as someone in Gillette.
The current fee in Gillette is $3.95 per 1000 gallons (.95 per 1000 gallons and a $3 distribution fee). The residents in Crook County would not pay the distribution fee as they are located within one mile of the well field and would not use the distribution line, pump stations, treatment and blending that happens down the line.
In fact, the regional water system operates over 16 other wells in Campbell County, blending disinfection, reverse osmosis etc. that has no impact on water used at the well field. It surely would not be fair for residents to be forced to pay for something they have no ability to use.
The Crook County fees are pegged to the costs charged elsewhere in the system and would rise with Gillette’s rates. At this time, only five to ten residents could hook onto the line.
If Crook County chooses to uses the balance of the potential taps available, they would have to form a water district – or the county could apply. They would then extend from the existing lines, at their own expense and upkeep. There would be no cost to any taxpayers in Campbell County or the City of Gillette.
The only difference would be the use and gallons of water. On this issue, the very day that this came out I met with a city representative and had agreed to limit the high gallon usage to five to six taps for livestock use and the balance would be the same as the rest of the system.
They didn’t bother to tell anyone that when visiting with the Gillette paper. I have been very flexible when dealing with the City of Gillette on this issue.
It has been portrayed that this “came out of nowhere”. I have emails to prove that not only did the City of Gillette, Senator Von Flatern and others know what was happening, they all had input and the amendment was changed at their request.
They not only had the floor debate in both the House and Senate, but I reached out and offered changes after the amendment was passed. There were changes made at that time due to the city’s and Senator Von Flatern’s input.
In short, providing water to Crook County residents will come at no additional cost to the City of Gillette and will help make the project what it was envisioned as – a regional water system. There are 10,000 plus taps now on the system with thousands more proposed. 200 taps in Crook County will amount to less than two percent of the taps on that system.
The Water Development office has weighed in on the issue and has said the possible expansion would have negligible to no impact on the system.
The City of Gillette has bought over 70 acres of land in Crook County using State of Wyoming money to do so. This land has been taken off the tax rolls in Crook County, effectively making Crook County residents pick up the tax burden for the City of Gillette and Campbell County.
Crook County provides law enforcement, fire protection and homeland security for the well field, tanks and pipeline with no reimbursement from the City of Gillette or Campbell County. It seems fair to me that the county residents who have a pipeline through their property and a county that provides services at no cost should have a right to access the pipeline as long as it does not cost the residents of Gillette and Campbell County additional costs.
I have worked hard to represent all three counties at one time. I would point out I have been one of the leads who helped get funding for all of the City of Gillette Regional Water System wells, pipelines, pump stations and regional extensions.
As well, I played a key role in the passing lanes on Highway 59 from Gillette to Douglas, played a key role in helping acquire funding for the Highway 59 north realignment, which will result in better traffic flow and millions of dollars of additional coal revenue to Gillette, Campbell County and Wyoming.
I have played key roles in obtaining funding for the City of Gillette and Campbell County. I have helped secure funding for numerous other projects for the city and county.
I still have a great working relationship with the county and am more than willing to work with the city and other senators and representatives in the Legislature.
The amendment was not a coup d’etat, it was an attempt to treat a contentious issue with fairness, leaving both sides getting something without hardship on the other – this is what statesmen are supposed to do. The amendment does exactly that.