The Squaw Creek Watershed project in Clarke County is on track to proceed, but not without some tension at a Nov. 8 Clarke County Reservoir Commission meeting.
Paula McClaflin spoke in support of the option to expand the existing 100-acre Arbor Valley Lake in Clarke County to be a feasible water-source alternative.
McClaflin said Arbor Valley supporters sought McClure Engineering, a private engineering firm that's not their own engineering firm, with the goal of remaining unbiased.
McClaflin said McClure was supposed to give a report at the meeting, but they declined to come.
"They bowed out of this scenario due to, Terry (Lutz) told me that he just did not want to get between two entities, even though he's very good at finding a solution," she said. "But, his staff told me that he received an incredible amount of political pressure from the reservoir commission and its entities. So, you know, we're just here. We just want to let you know we're really disappointed that we did not have an opportunity to look at the feasibility study or even spend a little bit of money to find out whether or not Arbor Valley and the current West Lake could be an answer to our problems."
McClaflin said she had a two-page letter from Bud Jones, a supporter of the Arbor Valley expansion, but he couldn't be there because of a Murray football game. McClaflin said she chose not to read it, and informed Jones of her decision.
She recommended the commission members should personally talk to Jones.
According to McClaflin, taxpayers don't want an increase in property taxes and can't afford it.
"I guess you guys will do what you want to do and there's not anything else for our group to do," she said. "So, we'll just kind of bow out of this and leave you guys alone. We'll do our thing, I guess. We'll let you continue to do what you're doing."
Many of the commission members showed concern about McClure receiving phone calls and clarified when they had talked to him and what they talked about. Many of the examples were of McClure first calling them.
McClaflin said she can only report what Lutz and his staff told her.
"I talked to Terry, but only because Terry and I know each other personally," Mayor Fred Diehl said. "He used to be the mayor of Fort Dodge, and we were on Vision Iowa together. The only reason he called me was to get the gallonage, the gallons per day, that we use at West Lake, and I didn't have that. So, I referred him to Mr. Patterson, and that's the only conversation we had."
Members of the reservoir commission all received a letter from McClure Engineering stating they wouldn't be at the reservoir meeting.
Frustrations were expressed about the "he said, she said" mentality concerning the Squaw Creek project.
As the meeting progressed, Harold Allen Jr., commission member representing the city of Woodburn, said, "There's been so much of this lying and somebody said this. This whole process, you can't believe anybody."
Diehl added, "There's two things, there's factual, and then there's coffee shop talk, and we have lots of coffee shop talk."
Sandy Kale, chairperson of Osceola Water Board, read a part of the letter from McClure, "However, given the commitment of your team to finally get your lake built, if we interject our thoughts at this time, it could jeopardize your good work and cause you a delay."
A feasibility study on the Arbor Valley expansion would cost $35,000 to $40,000.
David Beck, project coordinator for Clarke County Reservoir Commission, said he had asked McClure Engineering about a cost and time estimate for Arbor Valley.
"We've got a circle going. The point is, they're not coming in," he said. "They know it's going to take some significant time, that's the reason I asked for, not only a cost, but a time estimate. … It's like I said last month when this came up. The reservoir commission has done its due diligence. You've looked at all sorts of alternatives. You've met the state requirements. You're going through the legal process that needs to happen. The commission's been organized for 10 years trying to move a project forward."
Beck added, his best recommendation is to keep moving forward with the current project at Squaw Creek.
The commission approved to continue the current projects at Squaw Creek as planned.
Beck also provided an update on the Squaw Creek project.
Hearing notices to landowners in the Squaw Creek Watershed have been mailed concerning the 7 p.m., Dec. 6 public hearing.
A notice prior to the hearing will be published in the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune.
Beck said one landowner told him that he wants to be the first one to sell their land for the project.
"They're anxious to get on with their lives," Kale said.