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Water board: Potential customers should sign up in timely fashion

The message Monday from several members of the Southwest Water Authority Board of Directors to potential water customers: Sign up.

During a discussion about various water projects in the authority's Oliver, Mercer and north Dunn County regional service area, a handful of directors expressed concerns that potential customers were, in some cases, waiting too long to sign up for water.

Marie Johnson, the board's representative from Mercer County, said residents in her area sometimes do not understand the process of signing up for SWA rural water service.

"It's really sad that people don't understand this importance that you sign up now," Johnson said. "I've been dealing with people in my area and there's a group that is ready, but there's another group that's not signing up. The first group is trying to get the others to sign up because they know they're going to want to come on afterward. When people sign up after construction is finished, it costs more money and people complain. It's a problem and I don't know how to fix it."

Along with numerous other works being constructed or planned throughout southwest North Dakota, SWA has several transmission line, water tank and reservoir projects in the Oliver, Mercer, north Dunn area, some of which require easements from landowners.

SWA CEO Mary Massad and Bartlett & West project manager Jim Lennington told the board that things go much more smoothly when customers sign up for water service early in the process, rather than requesting to come on line to the Southwest Pipeline Project once a contractor has finished.

"When you're getting to the end of the project, (contractors) want to get out of there and there's going to be remobilization costs that the customer will have to pay," Massad said. "Some of them right now are about $3,000 per customer. We will help the customer get easements, there will be extra costs for that customer."

Johnson said the board "wants to get water to people," but that getting customers on line becomes more difficult later in the construction process.

"We have to do something to make people realize that it's just not easy to come back and do something when we've already been through," Johnson said. "I don't want to say we'll put forth a punishment, but I think everybody is trying in the worst way to make these people understand that you have to sign up now, not when the plow is through. There has to be something to cover those costs."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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