WARRENTON — The Warrenton City Commission had a difficult decision to make Tuesday night – spend $50,000 to repair three water valves, or save money with a quick fix but make a lot of residents and downtown business owners unhappy.

In the end, the commission opted to pay the $50,000 and not make businesses suffer lost sales because of a city problem.

“To me, there’s only one option,” Commissioner Mark Baldwin said before the commission directed staff to proceed with the process.

A project is in the works near the intersection of Main Avenue and Northwest First Street, Engineer of Record Jim Rankin explained to the commission. The plan changes a storm drain that comes across and will in effect lower the water level of a nearby slough.

But when the valves were turned off in order to complete the work, the water kept on flowing.

To sum it up, three water valves need to be replaced, at the cost of $50,000, or the city can turn off water throughout town in order to do the project, and that means no water for many residents for a day, or longer.

“They investigated,” Rankin said of the contractor. “And there are different alternatives.”

Alternative one would be to put in a temporary solution, a rented line stop, that will cost $750 a week per valve. The total would be near $50,000.

A permanent solution is available at the same cost. If the city opted to spend $20,000 instead, “we could shut the whole town down and fix these valves. The problem that comes when you start shutting all of town down or a large area, half of town, is service for customers, especially like Dairy Maid or the post office or the Mexican restaurant.”

It could be a day or longer, Rankin said, “maybe longer if something goes wrong and something will go wrong probably. I’m giving you options, I guess. The only one that seems practical to me is to put in new valves and isolate this area and not shut customers off for a day.”

The commission agreed.

Baldwin asked how many other valves in the city were in similar disrepair.

“These were put in in the 1970s, I suspect, so it’s not that unusual to have a 30- or 40-year-old valve that doesn’t work anymore,” Public Works Director Don Snyder said. “I suspect we’ve got lots of them in town.”

“That’s an excellent question,” City Manager Kurt Fritsch said. “It’s scary to think about but it is an ongoing issue that we need to think about and probably think about budgeting as we move forward with our projects. This is one of those items that’s going to come up.”

The initial project is paid for with urban renewal agency funds.

Rankin said he did not believe the urban renewal agency should have to pay for the addition $50,000 since it is not an urban renewal issue. Money is not available from the city’s water capital fund to pay for the project, Snyder said. Money “appears” to be available from the water enterprise fund, which is likely what the city will do, keeping it within the current budget year.

Snyder said that although the replacement is not the cheapest option, it is the most fail-safe.

Mayor Mark Kujala agreed.

“Well, we had three options, sounded like we really only had two options, well maybe we really only had one,” Kujala said with a laugh.

Rankin was directed by the commission to pursue the replacement project and bring it back for approval at a later date.

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