Butte Falls measures bet on hoped-for bottling plant

BUTTE FALLS — The city is so confident that its dream of bottling and selling its pristine spring water will become a reality that it has put two measures on the May 20 ballot on how revenue would be distributed.

"We're very close to a deal now," said Mayor Ron Ormond. "But because we're not getting help from anyone else, it's costing us quite a bit to put this thing together."

Ormond said he preferred not to reveal the name of the potential bottler until an agreement is reached.

Measure 15-85 would provide incentives for a private bottling company to locate on land provided by the town. Tax assessments and lease payments would be waived in favor of a revenue-sharing plan.

For the first five years of operation, Butte Falls would semi-annually receive 5 percent of the company's gross sales revenue. The town's share would increase every five years by 5 percent, until it reached 25 percent after 15 years.

Ormond said the plan allows a company to gradually build up its business and at the same time, give a boost to the community.

"The better they do, the better the town does," he said.

Measure 15-86 asks voters to approve a distribution plan for the town's share of bottling revenue.

For the first seven years, the money would be placed in the town's capital projects and equipment fund to recover the costs of developing the bottling plant site. Then the money would be distributed in six equal portions.

The first portion would be split among households within town, as long as the residents had lived there for at least 18 months.

Another portion would be invested, with the accrued interest distributed to the town's residents every 10 years.

One share would support the Big Butte Historical Society and the Butte Falls Historic Cemetery; another would provide funding for school activities and equipment in the Butte Falls School District.

The capital projects fund would continue to get a portion for the town's future public projects, and the final share would be dedicated to paying off the town's water and sewer debt. That debt was incurred over the last 10 years while the town upgraded its nearly 100-year-old water and sewer systems.

"I think it's exciting that this water bottling project may finally be up and running," said City Recorder Lori Paxton. "It's been many, many years to get to this point."

Ormond said the town already sells 10,000 gallons of water a week at 2 cents a gallon.

"That's $10,000 to the city every year," he said. "If we set up a bottling plant, the sky's the limit."

Since 1911, the city's water supply has come from Ginger Springs, about one-quarter-mile west of town.

Thoughts of a bottling plant began in the 1970s. The official beginning came in 1993, when Butte Falls residents voted to allow the city to sell excess water for profit outside of town.

A community development corporation was set up to find funding for the bottling project.

"Superior Lumber donated three acres of land and we were able to annex it into Butte Falls," said the corporation's chairwoman, Joyce Hailicka. "We also obtained permission from the state to put a bottling plant there."

A number of unsuccessful attempts were then made to secure a bottling plant. In 2006, unable to secure any significant grants after six years of trying, board members voted to disband. They transferred their funds to the town.

With those funds, a 500-yard-long pipeline that diverted unprocessed spring water from the town's supply to a distribution point at the edge of the proposed plant site was completed.

Ormond has been trying to find a way to get a bottling plant into Butte Falls since the 1970s when he first served as mayor.

He and other community leaders think the plant could revitalize the economy of this former timber town that lost most of its good-paying jobs in the 1980s.

"When people see that whoever lives here is going to get a share of the profits," he said, "there's going to be a lot of people wanting to move here."

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

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