Evart water attracts River City Bottling Co.

EVART — The city of Evart may see additional revenue due to a bottling company hoping to purchase water from one of the city's wells located at the southwest corner of the industrial park.

At the Nov. 18 city council meeting, Evart City Manager Zack Szakacs discussed an opportunity from Walker-based River City Bottling Company. The business, formerly known as Great Lakes Bottling Company, produces private-lable spring and purified water, kid's drinks, juice, vitamin water and more that are distributed across state lines.

The business would like to purchase water from the well at the current rate of $1.09 per thousand gallons. The well in question has sat idle for seven years after being drilled in 2006, he said.

Use of the well would begin slowly, but build up to 350,000 gallons each month, which would amount to about $350 per month. The revenue is small, but it's better than nothing, Szakacs added.

"If we can get them up and producing, maybe we can recoup our initial investment," he said. "I'm pretty excited about it. It could bring jobs and further employment."

A motion was made to split the cost of the hookup by 50 percent, and was approved by all council members.

Duane DeWitt, River City Bottling Company's district consultant predicts the facility will be up and running by the first of the year.

DeWitt addressed the city council and said the equipment needed to begin is already in place, along with six to 15 in-house employees. The facility is located in a building owned by DeWitt which rests next to the well.

However, the owner of the company would like assistance with hooking up electricity to the facility. Doing so would cost about $10,000. There is a possibility the company would like to purchase the well at a later date, he added.

DeWitt, a resident of the Evart area and city business owner, said he had two major reasons for selecting the well.

"I've always tried to create jobs in the community," he said. "Evart has premium water. Once we get running there, I'd take a bottle of our water and put it up against Aquafina or Dasani any day."

The sale of the well would be up to members of city council to decide, but Szakacs said it would cost River City Bottling Company about $140,000 to make the purchase.

Duane DeWitt has presented a similar idea in the city's past. In October of 2007, DeWitt, who owned Great Lakes Bottling Company, addressed the city council asking for 10-year tax abatement and a variance for the drilling of a privately-use well. At the time, he hoped to see about 40 full-time employees working three shifts at the business, using 24,000 gallons of water each day, and be up and running by April of 2008.

In December of 2007, city council members took action to help the company move forward to create a new industrial presence in the city, drilling a well to belong to the city but used by DeWitt. However, a lawsuit was filed by the city against the Great Lakes Bottling Company and DeWitt in hopes to recoup $125,000 the municipality has invested in the business’s infrastructure.

The Dec. 29 Osceola Edition reported the company settled in Grand Rapids instead of Evart.

“We were ignored,” Szcakas said in 2010. “Not a penny was returned to the city, although Mr. Dewitt appears to have set up a business operation in the Grand Rapids area. We asked for a water usage fee – a stand-by fee – some $600 per quarter. He paid nothing. We continue to bill him. I believe he is in arrears to the tune of about $6,000. Mr. Dewitt has never shown any intention of paying his bills.

“If he had even paid one bill on time it might have showed some interest or intent in working with us. If he had showed any intention of paying his bills this entire business (the suit) might have been avoided. He did not.”

Szcakas said he is still cautious about the situation, but because the city owns the well and holds the easements, there is little to lose this time.

"DeWitt is being sincere this time," he said. "The only thing we have to lose is $5,000 if he doesn't get up and running and start buying water from the city of Evart."