Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Palouse turns down funding package for water tower


August 30, 2018 | View PDF

After an e-mail arrived Friday morning, Aug. 10, at Palouse City Hall with an offer of $2.7 million in funding from the USDA for a water tower project on the south side of Palouse, Mayor Michael Echanove turned it down due to the terms of the package, no time to discuss it with the city council and more.

The offer came in at the nine o’ clock hour, with directions from the Washington state USDA that it would need to be signed by noon.

“They didn’t really give us any notice this was coming,” said Kyle Dixon, city administrator. “The interest rate, first of all, wasn’t anything the city was interested in.”

The short-notice development was related to a requirement for state USDA funds to be returned to Washington, D.C. at certain deadlines if they are not all spent locally — which happened with state USDA funds last year.

The full deal offered to Palouse was a $1.5 million loan and a $1.2 million grant, for what would be $68,000 in annual payments for 40 years, at a 3.2 percent interest rate.

“We didn’t feel we had the appropriate opportunity to review everything,” said Echanove.

Days later, on Aug. 14, at the city council’s regular meeting, after a discussion, the council authorized TD&H Engineering — the town’s consultants on the water matter — to apply for pre-construction funds from the State of Washington’s Public Works trust fund.

“This is just kind of a stepping stone,” Dixon said.

Pre-construction funds would be applied to design, further hydraulic analysis and more.

“This would get us one step closer with other state agencies,” said Dixon, who indicated the city plans to re-apply with the USDA next year.

“What we want to do is spend the next segment of time to get some engineering done,” Echanove said.

Overall, the USDA funding package would have meant the city commit to the plan to build a water tower, set to be built on ground formerly obligated to Greenwood Cemetery.

Residents have appeared previously before the city council and spoken against the plan.

“The tower has not been approved,” said Dixon. “This different direction (on funding) allows us to do further analysis and make sure we’re making the best decision.”

The water tower idea came about after the city turned off its pre-1900 reservoir two years ago. The 130,000-gallon tank, on the north hill behind the high school, acted as a backup.

With the old reservoir offline, the city now solely uses its newer reservoir, built in 1974, a 500,000 gallon structure next to the original.

In July of this year, a cultural survey was completed at the cemetery site proposed for the water tower. Earlier, a de-obligation of a section of land for it was approved by Whitman County Superior Court.

Last year, the Palouse city council began to examine what it might take to put in a new reservoir of some kind. TD&H was hired in December 2016 after a windstorm damaged the original reservoir.

For the water tower, eight alternative spots were considered by engineers before the cemetery site was chosen as the preferred option.

“We’re planning for 40-50 years down the road, for what we believe will be south side of town expansion,” said Dixon.


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