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September 27, 2013 09:55 PM

Lewis & Clark Spending Debate

Luverne, MN

People in southwest Minnesota are divided over spending more money on the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. Lewis and Clark members vote next month on whether to take out an $18 million loan to pay for the next phase of the project: bringing Missouri River water to the town of Luverne. But the loan could be a tough sell to groups that have already paid money up-front for the project.

Funding frustrations are running as high as the water runs low in communities still waiting to be hooked-up to Lewis and Clark.

"The federal government, I feel, is obligated to pay their share and they are backing out," Lewis and Clark Board Chairman Red Arndt said.

Luverne, Minnesota, pre-paid $1.9 million for Lewis and Clark. And it may take committing another half-million dollars as part of an $18 million loan to finally get water into the community.

"Our share will be $530,000, but begrudgingly will vote yes. It will be good and positive to keep moving forward," Luverne City Administrator John Call said.

But not everyone in the area is in favor of the loan.

Members of the Rock County Rural Water District have voted unanimously against applying for the loan. They say the line has to be drawn somewhere when it comes to spending more money on Lewis and Clark.

"We feel that it would set a precedent in that other districts will also want to shore up money for their districts and everybody's got to pay for that," Rock County Rural Water District Chairman Marv Tofteland said.

Tofteland says spending the additional money will be too costly a burden for rural water customers. But those favoring the loan say it will be even more expensive to customers the longer they have to wait for their water.

Lewis and Clark officials say the loan would amount to an advance from the federal government, to be paid off whenever federal funding comes through for the project. Luverne's city administrator says the town's water supply is not at a crisis stage yet.  But another dry fall could strain the supply even further.

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