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The quality of Rapid City's drinking water relies significantly upon the Mountain View water treatment facility near Jackson Boulevard, which was built in 1962 and depends upon equipment of that era. Kudos to our Public Works department for sustaining the life of 50-plus year-old technology.

This City has managed that plant frugally by repairing and replacing worn out-of-date mechanical parts to prolong the facility's life. However, replacement parts for this treatment plant are no longer being manufactured. Now when a worn or broken part must be replaced, we must go scavenging in national and international salvage yards. This sets the stage for a water crisis in our community.

The City Council voted to raise water rates by “amount or a percent” so we can update that plant. It's the first increase since 2013.

A group of perennial tax protesters and naysayers attempted to put the issue on the ballot, and the election is scheduled for Feb. 20. (Early voting started Feb. 5.) I say they "attempted" to put the rate increase on the ballot, but thanks to the wording of their petition what you will actually be voting on is not the rate increase itself, but rather the process the city will utilize in the future to set water rates.

I am asking for a “yes” vote on this issue. A “yes” outcome will save money and streamline bureaucracy by allowing the City to cut the number of required hearings in half, as well as put all utility rates in one legal and budgetary framework rather than two. The point of this is to make the water rate and other utility rate adjustments more transparent. It is that change which you will be voting on and, unfortunately, at a cost of $60,000 to run this special election.

This is the second time in recent months that the extreme far right has attacked local water safety issues. Frankly, I am puzzled why this group would be so vehemently opposed to having local government working on flood safety and water quality in an effort to assure that we all have an adequate supply of clean water. Further, why are they against making the decision-making process less expensive, more streamlined and more transparent? Nevertheless, I hope that a majority of voters will conclude that flood safety and water quality and supply are legitimate tasks for local government.

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Our clean water supply is something that we all depend upon, and it should not be taken for granted, nor should it be turned into a political football to promote the most far out, nonsensical anti-government extremism.

One might also ask how can we expect any new business to invest in our community if we are unwilling to do so ourselves? Thankfully, when I was campaigning door to door last year, an overwhelming majority of my constituents told me that investment in our city's infrastructure was their priority. The question now is whether they'll make the same effort to get out and vote as the naysayers. I certainly hope so!

Please vote “Yes” on or before Feb. 20.

Laura Armstrong represents Ward 5 on the Rapid City Council.

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