Minden’s original water cooler will continue flowing
October 10, 2001
The owner of a water faucet that has been running continuously since 1919 at the COD Garage in Minden has agreed to have it metered.
Don Hellwinkel, who owns the faucet, convinced four of five Minden Town Board members the water fountain has historic value and, therefore, he shouldn’t be charged for the water.
However, he agreed to have the faucet metered to determine how much water is flowing from the tap and how much is being wasted.
The water comes from a well that is linked with the town’s water supply. The well is 300 feet deep. Hellwinkel is charged the town’s flat-rate of $19.60 for unlimited water use.
Hellwinkel said the faucet has been the source of water cooler chatter and deal-making that dates back to the building’s first owner, Fritz Dangberg.
“Lots of people have come to the faucet over the years,” Hellwinkel said, adding that a Pan American airline pilot once stopped by the faucet for a drink because he had heard the water was the best in town.
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“People from all over have come to drink from it. They still do,” Hellwinkel said.
If it’s determined that the faucet is wasting too much water, Hellwinkel says he might be willing to pay a flat fee on it as he does with the rest of the garage.
“Whatever the meter says, we’ll go from there,” he said.
Last month, Hellwinkel said he successfully made his case before the Minden Town Board.
He told them the faucet was the place for after-work camaraderie among employees and deal-making among the town’s early forefathers.
For years, people from all over town would come to the garage to drink from the faucet, which was the source of some of the county’s purest and coldest water, Hellwinkel said.
The running water was caught and collected in a pickle barrel, where garage workers would keep their bottles of beer for “cold ones” after work, Hellwinkel said.
The garage was also somewhat of a place for after-hours deal-making for Dangberg, who owned property throughout Minden.
Hellwinkel said Dangberg would keep a stash of moonshine and whiskey in the barrel and when a deal was made with a partner, he would pull a bottle from the barrel, offer shots of the liquor and then shake hands.
“A lot of deals were culminated at the faucet,” Hellwinkel said.
Town board member Dave Sheets voted against the historical exemption, saying that he had a problem “with letting 350,000 gallons go down the drain.”
— Staff writer Jeff Munson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org