Des Moines City Council 3-20-2017

It was a flood of opposition.

Two bills in the Iowa legislature, HF 484 in the Iowa House and SF 456 in the Iowa Senate, seek to dissolve the current Des Moines Water Works, return its assets to the city of Des Moines, and nudges Des Moines and the suburbs into forming a regional water authority.

Those two bills were called "a Farm Bureau power grab" and more during Monday night's Des Moines City Council meeting. Activists said Des Moines could "end up like Flint, Michigan" if the Des Moines Water Works were broken up. 

Others said the bills were retribution for the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against several ag drainage districts in Northwest Iowa for pollution of the Raccoon River and its tributaries-a lawsuit that was dismissed Friday by a federal judge.  Council Member Skip Moore suggested the legislation was to attack Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe, calling it the "Kill Bill bill".

Angered activists told Council Member Christine Hensley they'd "see you in 2018" and vote her out-along with anyone else on the council who supported the bills. The attacks on Hensley got so great that Mayor Frank Cownie had to ask several citizens to stop their attacks.

City Manager Scott Sanders says the city of Des Moines is registered in favor of the legislation so they can "have a seat at the table" in negotiations to "fix" problems with it.  He said the bills weren't about water quality. Over catcalls from the audience, Sanders said that several of the Des Moines suburbs were already building their own water treatment plants...and if they quit buying Des Moines' water, rates for people in the city could go up substantially to make up the difference.

Hensley told the audience there was a lot of "misinformation" out about the bills. She said the council is committed to water quality. Mayor Frank Cownie said if the city "gets back" the water treatment facility, he'd "ask the Water Works board" and its management to stay on.

After hearing from over 20 speakers, the council voted 4 to 2 to keep its support for the bills.  Council members Christine Hensley, Chris Coleman, Joe Gatto and Linda Westergard voted to keep the support. Councilmen Skip Moore and Bill Gray voted to have the city oppose it.  Mayor Frank Cownie passed.