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Lewis & Clark Members Vote No On Loan

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The city of Luverne, Minn. was left waiting Thursday, waiting to be connected to the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. On Thursday board members of the water system voted against taking out a $16 million loan that would help build the system to the city.

 Up to 45 million gallons of water a day could be flowing out of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System in Vermillion, that is, if all 20 members were connected. On Thursday, board members of the system had the chance to help a twelfth member get connected, but in a 5 to 14 vote, they chose not to.
"I'm very disappointed," Red Arndt, Chairman of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System Board said. I thought that the members that are hooked up would help us that aren't hooked up."

Arndt said the city has invested $1.5 million into the system, and has yet to receive any water. The $16 million loan would have covered nearly all construction costs for 18 miles of pipeline that would have begun at the Iowa border and connected to Luverne. Now, Arndt and the rest of his community are left waiting and for what he calls an economic standstill.

 "We have an ethanol plant and businesses related to that, that can't expand right now because we don't have the water to give them," Arndt said.

 But the board members who voted no said their cities have paid their fair share of money to get this system up and running, and it's time for the federal government to uphold their end of the bargain.

 Chad Huwe, Sioux Falls Lewis and Clark Regional Water System Board Representative said, "We've (the city of Sioux Falls) borrowed over $70 million and fulfilled our financial commitment.

Huwe said if the loan was approved, water bills would have gone up as the city forked out more money for the system.
 "To come up with another $7.5 million, we feel we’ve filled our financial commitment," Huwe said.

 As for Arndt, he's left waiting and hoping, that at some point the federal government will pay the nearly $212 million they owe for the project.  

"We are going to have to keep working on this we can't quit," Arndt said. "We have to get this project done."

Since the loan approval failed, board members must wait to see how much funding the government will provide in 2015. At that point, they will create another construction plan and vote on another loan if needed. If that passes, the plan is to repay all of the members the money they loaned as the federal government gives money to the project.

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