Sodaville Well Project Back On-Track

Mayor Brian Lewis, at left, swears-in resident Peggy Bishop as budget committee chair during the May 16 council meeting. Photo by Sarah Brown

In a turn of events, the City of Sodaville is back on track to move forward with an attempt to build a sixth well, while continuing to also revive well number five.

Mayor Brian Lewis told the council he received an email from State Representative Jami Cate’s office inquiring about the council’s discussion last month that indicated they will likely lose $365,000 earmarked for the anticipated well number six.

Former City Administrator/Recorder Alex McHaddad had informed the council that the city would need to file for water rights, but that process can take a year, at minimum, to complete. By the time that process would be complete, the funding would expire, Lewis said at last month’s meeting.

After talking with Cate’s office, Lewis learned that the request for water rights might be able to be pushed through quicker because it’s a government funded project. However, the city will be responsible for paying for the water rights, which could cost between $2,700 to $3,000.

The city also needs to find an engineer that would determine the amount of land needed to build the well and the cost of the project, plus they still need to have a discussion with the property owner, Ray Jackman, to negotiate a price.

Lewis also noted that the City of Lebanon’s mayor and staff have offered to help.

“All of these people are jumping in to help us,” Lewis said.

The council approved a motion for Lewis to sign the acceptance of the $365,000. If, for whatever reason, the well project does not pan out, the money will be returned to the government and the city will only be out maybe $3,000 for the water rights, Lewis said.

“Conner Booth (Cate’s legislative aide) said that the other option is if we run out of money by June 15 (2025), then Jami Cate’s office goes back in and starts trying to get us more money,” Lewis said. “Their office is bending over backwards to help us.”

Meanwhile, Public Works Director JD Burns continues to look into the possibility of restoring well number five to the system. Burns reported he is working with Oregon Health Authority, Linn County Environmental Health, Oregon Association of Water Utilities, and Waterlab to determine what needs to be done to bring well number five back into working order.

“There’s a lot of controversy there because things weren’t handled right when we quit using it,” he said.

Burns said he took two samples of water from the well to Waterlab for bacteria and iron bacteria tests.

In other business:

  • The council reported that, based on mutual agreement, new City Administrator/Recorder Brandi Libra is no longer working for the City of Sodaville. Until a replacement can be found, responsibilities will be divided between council and staff.
  • Burns said he reached out to some companies a few months ago to get bids for the restoration of the reservoir. Built in the 1960s, it’s old and has some rust inside, he said. So far only one bid has been received in the amount of $185,000, plus/minus 10% to “rehab” it. Additional costs would be incurred to plumb the water into spare tanks for a couple months.
  • Burns reported gallons of water produced this past month was about 490,000 and gallons sold was about 436,000 gallons.
  • Lewis told the council Lebanon’s finance director, Brandon Neish, agreed to be hired out to draft the budget for the City of Sodaville. The mayor swore-in Peggy Bishop as the budget committee chair, and appointed Denise Jackman to the Budget Committee.