GALATIA — Galatia Mayor Steve Wilhelm’s decision earlier this year not to sell water to an area farmer has one city councilman concerned. David Strecker brought it up at last month’s meeting, and more discussion is expected when the council meets at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, at the City Building.
Strecker brought his concerns to the Great Bend Tribune after what he described as a heated discussion at the last council meeting. The Tribune also contacted Wilhelm, who said his decision was based in part on the city’s need to reserve adequate water for its fire trucks.
According to Strecker, an individual in agriculture attempted to purchase water in late April or early May when farmers were applying fungicide on their wheat to prevent the spread of Stripe Rust. At least two other have leased city water in the past, but his request was denied. That person, who Strecker declined to name, eventually called Strecker, who brought it up at the June council meeting.
Strecker said the reasons given by Wilhelm at that meeting included, “‘I hate farmers; they feel they are entitled to everything,’” and ‘No-till farmers are poisoning our food.’”
“He looked at me directly and stated, ‘You are a no-till farmer also,” Strecker continued. “His ‘facts’ used for this initial decision of denying water to the producer that called him was based on the internet. I also would speculate personal grievances with the producer.
“Since this occurred during an official city council meeting I am deeply disturbed and concerned that our mayor would leverage his authority like this without consulting the city council first,” Strecker said. “Also, I believe the mayor has not shown honor and respect towards others in the agriculture community who are responsible for producing the food and fiber for us and the world. Because of his actions on official city time, I want the mayor held accountable for his negative actions.”
Water supply for fires critical
The Tribune contacted Wilhelm on Monday, June 27, and inquired about the reasons behind his initial denial of the water sale. While he would not go into detail about what happened at the June city council meeting, he indicated it would be discussed further at the July meeting. He alluded to a potential solution that would allow purchasers of water to “pay at the pump.”
“Basically, we aren’t obligated to sell water to anyone,” he said. “We purchased that well for fire department use.”
A top concern of Wilhelm’s is maintaing the city’s Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) rating. That rating determines what insurance companies will charge for property insurance. and having an adequate water supply is a key factor in determining the fire department’s overall score, ranging from best at 1 to worst at 10. For rural communities like Galatia, having a reliable water supply within easy access of pumpers and brush trucks is critical. According to Wilhelm, Galatia currently has an ISO 9 rating. If there isn’t enough water to meet the bare bones requirement of this class, he worries the department’s rating could drop to Class 10, no fire protection.