City nears water storage contract resolution

Henderson Mayor Clem Seifert reported to the City Council at the end of Monday’s meeting regarding the state of negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers. The city and the Corps are currently negotiating a new water storage contract.

At the request of council member Elissa Yount, Seifert reported on the record to the council what he had discussed casually during the Speak Up Henderson forum that preceded the regular council meeting.

According to Seifert, a meeting was held with John Paul Woodly, an assistant secretary of the Army, presumably at the scheduled November 16 date. At issue is the cost of the water storage contract. The city maintains that the original offer for the contract was $2.3 million, but that it learned of the offer after the deadline to accept set by the Corps had expired. Subsequently, the price of the contract was raised by the Corps to $3.4 million with the understanding that if the offer was not accepted, the Corps might raise the cost even further.

During discussion, Seifert informed the council that the Corps had indicated that it had no knowledge of the original $2.3 million price tag for the water storage contract. City representatives were told that if they could identify where the figure came from, the Corps would “strongly consider” using it in the new contract.

Seifert told the council that City Manager Eric Williams quickly identified the document upon returning to Henderson.

Woodly also authorized an extension of the current contract until April 30, 2006, should a new contract not be signed by December 31. Seifert indicated, however, that he strongly desires to sign the contract in Washington with all parties present by the December deadline. The mayor indicated that the contract needs to be ready before the council meets on December 5 or December 19 so that the council can authorize the signing of the contract.

Seifert informed the council that Representative G.K. Butterfield was responsible for securing the meeting with Woodly.

“The city could not have done it,” Seifert stated.

Regarding the terms of the contract, Seifert told council members that storage of 20 million gallons was all the city could expect.

“We’re a little bit at the mercy of the Corps,” he told council members.

Yount asked the mayor if the city had the possible contract extension in writing. Seifert responded that the city did not, but that he was confident that the city will get an extension if it is needed.

Williams indicated that the city needs to be sure to read the contract very carefully.

Williams also informed the council that Rep. Butterfield will be coming to Henderson on December 16 from 4:00pm to 5:30pm to hold a “State of the District” meeting at the county courthouse. Williams believed that it would be a good time and place to thank the representative.