Huntington considering buying proroperty for new well sites

The Board of Public Works and Safety and a Huntington family negotiated deals on Monday, Nov. 16, that will allow the city of Huntington to test for wells and possibly buy 5.6 acres of land at CR 300W and CR 600N from Pam and Jack Scher.

The Scher family and the city struck a package deal that will allow the city to test the family's land for three possible well sites at a fee of $3,000.

If the city finds the water it wants, they will buy the farm acreage from the Schers for an additional $55,000.
Multiple figures were thrown around the conference room during the Board of Works meeting on Monday morning, ranging from $46,000 to about $90,000.

Attorney Ted Bendall expressed his concern about the numbers pushing to the highest extent, explaining that he feared they included the lost income stream the Schers would endure without the farm land and damage fees, which he said seemed to be duplicated fees. He also said there were appraisal differences in what the appraiser the city used came up with and with what the one that the Schers used.

Board member Shirley Powell said that the all-inclusive range should be $46,000 to $57,800, and that the negotiated figure was $46,000. Member Barry Cochran discussed rounding that up to $50,000. The Schers and their neighbors stepped outside to discuss the offer, and came back in with the accepted total of $58,000. Before settling, the Schers said they didn't want to take the negotiation issue to court, but would if it was necessary.

The city has been looking for land for new wells since a study done in 2006 by a Fort Wayne firm on Huntington's water system.

The study concluded that in 20 years, the aquifer (a water source found in the ground) off of Salamonie Road Extended would be pumped dry, Dave Schoeff, director of engineering for the city, explained after the meeting Monday. The aquifer pumps three million gallons a day to supply the city with water and it's not replenishing itself, he explains.
From aerial photography studies done in the spring of 2008, the location of the Scher's land was projected as the best site for a new aquifer.

Schoeff said that the $3,000 pays for the test drilling, which will go 400 feet down. If the test drilling turns up favorable results, the deal would allow the city to purchase the land from the Schers, Schoeff said.

Schoeff also explained that the test drilling will determine the quality of the water and how much the aquifer can pump.

Mayor Steve Updike said after the meeting that two wells are tapped and ready to go about a quarter to a half-mile away from the Scher land. The city previously bought roughly 80 acres from Jim Sprinkle after a first attempt to negotiate a purchase from the Schers was unsuccessful, Updike said.

Updike says that if the tests show that adequate water is available at the Scher sites, the two locations will be connected and a plant will be built to serve as the Huntington Water Plant North to take pressure off of the south plant.