While the Clancy Water and Sewer District Board continues to consider the possibility of a centralized water system, the pastor of the Clancy United Methodist Church has voiced concerns that the financial burden of the project could cause the church to close.
“If my understanding of the costs is correct, it could very well lead to the closure of the Clancy Church if the church is required to connect to a new centralized water system,” said Pastor Val Colenso with Clancy UMC.
In an early survey draft drawn up by CWSD Board President David Leitheiser, the estimated cost to the Clancy UMC would be $197 a month plus the cost of water usage. That figure is
slightly higher than the $111 plus water used cost estimated for residents of the district.
Bob Marks, a member of the CWSD board and a trustee of the Clancy UMC, said he would not speculate on the church’s future, but that the nearly $200 added cost to the church would be a burden. “Church membership is falling and our resources come from membership … the church depends on contributions from parishioners.”
The centralized well project aims to mitigate issues with Clancy’s water. According to the 2018 Preliminary Engineering Report, there have been elevated nitrates and uranium in some of the wells in Clancy. These contaminants can cause health issues such as ‘blue baby syndrome’ which is a potentially fatal condition caused by elevated nitrates, whereas uranium can cause kidney damage and has been linked to cancer.
This financial burden to entities like the Clancy UMC is one of the reasons Marks believes there is little support for the centralized well project. “The survey was sent out because the finances to support that [centralized well] would create a debt issue,” Marks said, “and the survey showed people don’t support this.”
The CWSD survey showed that 43% of respondents supported no action by the board at all. Another 33% supported the current plan for the centralized well, and 52% supported a public wastewater system. One respondent supported both public systems.
“I do know that we could not absorb the kind of costs they are talking about and continue to pay a pastor at three-quarters time (which is where they are at the present),” Colenso said.
Private residents also echoed similar concerns on their surveys “At the unaffordable cost of the water project I would likely sell my place and move into Helena,” said one respondent.
The lack of progress on the community water system has raised the alarm for county officials.
In response, the Jefferson County Health Board and the County Commission plans to hold a town hall meeting, to include the public, to discuss the water and wastewater issues facing the community. In March, the Jefferson County Sanitarian recommended that the area lying within the CWSD be placed under a special management area for septic systems as a way to improve the water quality. The Health Board is planning to consider this option in May, which would add new restrictions to property owners with septic systems, or those wanting to put in a new system.