Othello School Board, city officials talk land

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OTHELLO — The need for more water storage brought Othello city officials to the Othello School Board meeting Monday to talk about land for a new water tower.

“The city needs a new water reservoir for its potable water system,” said Jesse Cowger, engineer with Varela and Associates, the engineering firm working on the project. City officials decided to build it on the north side of town, to accommodate existing commercial development and new residential development.

City officials want to build at the intersection of 14th Avenue and Lee Road, property owned by the school district. Voters rejected a construction bond proposal in February that included, among other things, an elementary school and middle school on the 14th Avenue site. District officials have said the plan is to build a school on the property at some point.

“The parcel of land the city is requesting is about 160 feet by 160 feet at the northeast corner of the property,” Cowger said. The city’s plan includes a pumping station for irrigation water along with the water tower.

The city could be a partner in improving that intersection, when the time comes that it needs improvement, Cowger said. “That corner, from a frontage improvement standpoint, is a fairly expensive intersection,” he said.

The necessary improvements would include sidewalks, curbs and gutters, as well as widening the road to accommodate the traffic a school would generate.

“The single biggest benefit we saw to the district is that, if the district were to provide that parcel of land, those frontage improvement costs would be borne by the city instead of by the district.” The city would be eligible for grants to pay part of the cost, Cowger said.

In addition, “from an engineering hydraulic standpoint, having a reservoir right next to your school gives you gobs of water if you have to fight a fire.”

Currently the property is leased and is under cultivation. Board member Tony Ashton said the current lessee provides his own irrigation water, but other potential tenants might not. Ashton said he wanted to be sure that any agreement with the city didn’t impact the district’s water use rights on the property, and reduce its options as a result. “I wouldn’t want to give up our only irrigation right.”

Community development director Anne Henning said officials are working on a separate irrigation water district, as part of the effort to reduce pressure on the city’s drinking water source. Research into the water rights is part of that process, she said.

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