Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

City hopes to cut water expenses with impending Sunflower changes

August 23, 2001

The city of De Soto is attempting to use the coming transition at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant to cut costs at the water treatment facilities it operates on the defunct plant.

The city's present lease is with the plant's civilian contractor, Alliant Techsystems, which will depart Sunflower at the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30. Blaine Hastings, the U.S. General Services Administration official handling the Sunflower transfer, told the council last month that the federal government will allow the city to continue operating the plant under a license agreement.

The current lease, signed by then-Mayor Steve Prudden in April 1998, required the city to provide Alliant and the Army with water and sewer service at no cost. The city was also required to assume the cost of maintaining the water and sewer plants and their distribution systems.

Despite providing Alliant needed water and sewer service, the city paid the contractor $4,792 a month the first year of the lease and $5,792 a month in its second year for "consideration for use of the facilities." City Administrator Gerald Cooper said the payments were discontinued in the spring of 2000 when the city's biggest water customer, Koch Industries, left Sunflower.

At last Thursday's city council meeting, De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson said his first suggestion was that the city would continue operating the plant for the Army, but the federal government would be responsible for its maintenance. The mayor said he backed off when City Attorney Patrick Reavey suggested the Army would never accept those conditions.

Still, the city council authorized City Attorney Patrick Reavey to send a draft license agreement to Hastings that would greatly curtail the city's obligations.

The city's proposal would end its requirement to provide sewer services to the Army and the civil contractor who replaces Alliant. The city is proposing those needs be addressed through a septic system.

The city would also like to shut down most of the plant's antiquated water distribution system with its rupture-prone lines. The city's proposal would close off all lines except those needed to supply the Army and contractor.

In a memo to the council, Reavey wrote the Army has concerns about both proposals, although it is exploring the septic option. Water service is more problematic because of the controlled-burn program that will continue under the new contractor.

It is believed the Kansas Department of Health and Environment would require pressurized water at the site of the controlled burns, Reavey wrote. Hastings indicated aboveground temporary irrigation pipes might be sufficient, Reavey stated.

The city's other option would be to charge needed water lines when burns are scheduled.

Hastings said Monday he is reviewing the city's proposal and refused to comment on its specifics during negotiations.

"We are trying very hard to come up with a license agreement requiring minimal costs to the city and the Army," he said.

The city will have to invest about $80,000 in the plant to keep it operational, Cooper told the council. About $17,000 will be needed to bring electrical power the Army has announced it will shut down Sunflower's electrical power grid and heat to the water plant. The remaining money will be used for needed modifications and upgrades, he said.

The work he is proposing, Cooper said, would be needed should the city get title to the plant. He added the Sunflower water plant will allow the city to save overtime expenses at its downtown plant once a water line connecting Sunflower to the city distribution line is finished this month.

Last Thursday, the council authorized City Engineer Mike Brungardt to obtain bids for a survey for another larger water line to the plant than was first proposed last year. The purposed 12-inch line, which would cost an estimated $500,000, would not only solve De Soto's immediate growth needs, but by making use of Sunflower's water towers improve fire protection in the western part of town, he said.

The water line was first proposed last fall. Brungardt was seeking bids for its design before the Johnson County Commission's second tie vote on Oz Entertainment Co.'s redevelopment plan put Sunflower's future in limbo. The city was unwilling to install a water line on Sunflower without the assurance it would eventually own the water plant.

However, Intervet Inc. was included in the 12-inch line in the design of its campus now under construction on 91st Street, Reavey said he learned last week.

Anderson suggested the city would look bad if it didn't go ahead with the water line, but he said the city council should look at the water line as an opportunity to make needed improvements at Intervet's expense. The city would pay for the line for revenue earned through the sale of water to Intervet, Anderson and Cooper said.

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