Busted Axle Road
Chapter 117

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

Freda, the city clerk, wasn't very happy about having to fill in for the city manager, and she had tried to put off what she could until the new one arrived, hopefully in the next month. Still there was business to take care of, and sometimes it couldn't be put off.

Since Kutzley had left, back at the end of November, Jack Musgrave had been dealing with most of the items to be done with the sewer system, and she let him have all of the mail unopened that looked like it might have something to do with it.

For a month and a half, Jack had come by the city office about the time the mail arrived, to deal with it. He was standing at the counter in the clerks office slicing open letters, when he came to the one from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Even the name made him flinch. The Defenders of Gaea lawsuit had been dropped a couple of weeks before, he knew, and all had been surprisingly quiet on that front. Still, that didn't mean that there couldn't be more trouble in the works.

There was no way to find out, except by opening the letter. He glanced at it, and a broad smile crossed his face.

"Good news?" Freda asked. She'd seen the envelope from the Fish and Wildlife Service, and had wondered what was in it, too.

"Darn good news," Jack replied, reading the letter. It was brief: "'This letter is to notify you that intensive study having found no evidence of a colony of Gibson's Water Snakes in the Spearfish Lake area, the Fish and Wildlife Service is downgrading the Critical Interest Area in Spearfish Lake to a Special Study Area. The Fish and Wildlife Service will accept requests for proposals for further searches in the area for evidence of the existence of the Gibson's Water Snake, but does not intend to renew the Critical Interest Area until such evidence is found.'"

"That is good news," Freda said.

"What it says is that we'd better get rolling on the sewer separation before they find another snake," Jack replied.

"Council meets a week from tonight," Freda said. "I'll call the engineers, and we can ask council to get the bid process rolling."

"Somebody's going to have to work on that messed-up special assessment roll," Jack said. "That's still all we've got to give 'em, and I'm sure not the one to have to pull it together."

"Me, either," Freda said. "Maybe we could ask council to fund a consultant."

"Maybe the regional planning commission has someone," Jack suggested.

Freda reached for the phone. "I'll just give them a call and see."

While she was dialing, Jack opened the next letter. It was from the Rural Development Agency, and he was sure he'd never heard of it before. Probably some conference announcement, he thought, then glanced at the letter. "Don't bother," he told Freda.

Freda furrowed her brow, and put the phone down. "What now?" she asked.

Jack began to read. "'This agency has reviewed the application submitted last summer to the Farm Home Administration for a grant for development of a storm sewer separation system in Spearfish Lake, and passed along to us by that agency.

"'Be advised that this agency is prepared to fund the development of a storm sewer separation system in Spearfish Lake, on a ninety percent matching fund basis, up to a limit of five million dollars.'" Jack smiled. "It goes on to say that we have to resubmit an application, along with bids and a lot of other stuff, but they assure us that the money is ours after we jump through all the hoops."

Freda glanced at the clock, and started dialing the phone. "Who are you calling?" Jack asked.

"The Record-Herald," Freda replied. "I think there's still time to make this week's paper."

Later that afternoon, Mike was overseeing the way the paper came together. The big headline on the front page would make a lot of people happy, he knew, but he was still a little detached from the process. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, he knew, although not for him. He didn't know everything that would happen, but would be interested to see how it came out. He was still glancing at the headline, "WAY CLEARED FOR SEWER PROJECT", when Sally came up to him.

"Mike," she said. "We still don't have your column."

"I know, Sally," he said. "I've been preoccupied with this sewer story." And, with something else, he thought, but there was no reason for her to know about it. "Drop in a filler, or something."

"You really should write something," she said. "You haven't missed a column in months."

"I'm burnt out on writing columns about the sewer project," he protested. "I haven't got anything else on tap."

"How about a puff piece on the Winter Festival?" Pat Varner suggested from where he was laying out the sports pages.

"That's still two weeks off," Mike said, "And we've already filled up more space with it than we should have."

"It'd still look good," Pat said.

"All right, I will," Mike said. "If you'll swap the Camden run with me tomorrow."

"Any special reason?" Pat asked.

"Yeah," Mike said. "I want to watch 'Good Morning, America'. There's supposed to be someone I know on."

"I suppose," Pat said.

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