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First step for city water works in 1886
York County 150 Years

First step for city water works in 1886

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(Editor’s note: This was published in the York Daily News-Times in 1970, in commemoration of the county’s and city’s birthday)

Did you as a kid ever stick your tongue out on a pump handle in freezing weather? If you did you were but one of many youngsters who experienced a kind of pain they weren’t likely to forget the rest of their lives.

Kids back in York in the early days of the village no doubt experienced this ordeal. Even if they didn’t stick their tongues on the pump handles they developed a hearty dislike for the old well pump.

It wasn’t because they were concerned particularly with the tongues of the York youngsters that the city fathers back in 1886 took cognizance of the need for a water supply – not just for the convenience to housewives but as a precaution against fire.

On April 4, 1886, according to old city council minutes, a bond issue was presented to the York voters for issuance of water works bonds.

That was the first step in the establishment of a water works. A year later on May 31, 1887, the city adopted an ordinance to grant an exclusive franchise for water works operation to A.L. Strong and J. H. McConnell.

In 1912, a water franchise was granted the York Water Company by a margin of but 22 votes.

Then in September, 1919, the York Water Company, by its president Charles Pfeffer, offered to sell its system to the City of York for $84,811.25.

The then city council, headed by Mayor Arthur Wray, proposed that the city issue $150,000 in bonds to buy the water plant and develop it.

But the voters said no to the proposition by a 2 to 1 vote of 887 no to 416 for.

Again in December, 1932, the voters, by a 398-vote margin, gave the York Water Company anther franchise.

But on Nov. 4, 1951, the York voters gave overwhelming approval to the proposal that the city buy the York water works. The vote was 1,202 in favor of the purchase to 224 against.

An active campaign for the purchase was led by the York Daily News-Times which received a plaque from Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben for its work on behalf of the civic project.

But the price paid for the water works in 1951 was almost three times that proposed by the company in 1919.

The actual price was $244,000 as set by a special condemnation court. With fees for extra witnesses, etc., the cost mounted to $258,000.

The city took over operation of the plant Oct. 24, 1953. This fall (in 1970) the final payment will be made on the bonds voted for purchase of the plant.

However, a bond issue of $265,000 has been issued by the city to pay for the cost of the new water tower erected a year ago. Designed to eventually replace the tower erected in 1912, the new tower right now supplements the old one.

Turning a faucet and getting a pail full of water is a far cry from operating a pump – but even the old timers will admit it has its advantages – many of them in fact.

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