OLYMPIA - The Olympia City Council will spend up to $50,000 to improve the artesian well in a city-owned parking lot at Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street.
The city plans to maintain the well as a free-flowing outfall pipe but will protect it from damage and improve the well’s discharge. Other plans call for adding an elevated bench to hold water containers, lights, trash cans and a community announcement board. The parking lot’s surface will be improved to aid wheelchair access. And three parking spaces will be designated for well users.
City employees can do the work for less than $50,000, according to a staff report, though there’s $62,000 in the budget.
It’s the city’s latest effort to protect the well, which provides free, continuously flowing artesian water through an old outfall pipe. The city bought the well, along with the 82-space parking lot, from Diamond Parking of Seattle for $780,000.
Artesian water is naturally pressurized groundwater that bubbles to the ground when a well is drilled. Some people prefer its taste to that of chlorinated tap water.
In addition to protecting the well, the city bought the lot so it could use the parking spaces for its new City Hall that is going up nearby. It’s expected to fill up when the city moves into the building in March.
“Our mission and goal has been, as this parking lot begins to fill up with cars and people, how do we protect the well for public use and maintain public access as that parking lot becomes busier and busier?” said former Public Works Director Michael Mucha.
Mucha’s comments and others were taken from a video of the Jan. 4 City Council meeting. Mucha left his city job this month to take a position in Madison, Wis.
H2Olympia, a grass-roots advocacy group, assisted the city in its plans. H2Olympia representative Laurian Weisser said the group talked to thousands of users and helped develop the recommendations.
City leaders hope to one day have a fancier presentation for the well than a pipe sticking out of the ground. But that would cost much more money, which the city has in short supply because of the recession. The city estimates that would cost an additional $60,000 to $110,000.
“This is not the end, but it closes certainly another chapter as we move forward on this motion,” Councilman Craig Ottavelli said.
The council unanimously approved the artesian well plan at its meeting Jan. 4.
“It is thrilling to have it said and done, and I’m excited to see how it all turns out,” Councilwoman Jeannine Roe said.
Added Councilman Steve Langer, “I think this is a good short-term decision.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org