When Challis Cemetery board members went before the Challis City Council Oct. 8, they wanted to know why the city charged them more than $2,000 for water they said they have a right to access at no charge.
As far as they know, Cemetery board Chairman Lynn Tritthart said they have a water right to 19 million gallons of water every year to maintain about 5.5 acres of cemetery land. Historically, the city has never charged the cemetery board for any water used at the cemetery.
Mayor Mike Barrett explained the bill was more of a communication to get board members before the council. He admitted there were probably better ways to do it, but Barrett said city staff needed to find out how much water the cemetery used this year.
Since west wells 2 and 3 broke down last year, Barrett said city workers have been trying to keep an accurate count of how much water gets used in Challis. Not wanting to wear down the recently turned on, ground-sourced clear well, or the production well city workers hope to replace the two broken wells with, Barrett said the city wants to see if the cemetery can use less water.
Cemetery Caretaker Allicyn Latimer explained tracking usage and cutting back on it is a tough ask. Latimer said while she has never used the full 19 million gallons, she still needs every drop. Weather varies year to year, she said, sometimes requiring more watering and sometimes less.
“This year particularly has been weird, with those two dry months,” Latimer said.
Tritthart expressed frustration at the city’s request. When her mother was on the board, Tritthart said issues over water usage persisted with the city. For that reason, board members brought a rough draft of a memorandum of understanding detailing their claim to the 19 million gallons of water and asked council members to consider it.
City Council members and the mayor said they would have to discuss the memo. After cemetery board members left, Barrett said the situation could’ve been handled better.
“The reality is we didn’t set expectations for what we wanted,” he said.
However, City Council members said they would still like to see an accurate account of water used at the cemetery. They appreciate the work cemetery board members do, they all said, but costs need to be assessed.