De Soto sewer expansion could be left to county
Five miles and two infrastructure needs separate De Soto from the residential boom that is occurring on its eastern doorstep.
While De Soto will probably resolve its long-term water needs this fall, there is no discussion of sewer upgrades that would spark the kind of development that is occurring in west Shawnee. Mayor Dave Anderson said that reflects the feelings of residents.
"What I'm hearing is water and streets," the mayor said. "That's where our focus needs to be."
Anderson said he expects the city council to make a decision on the city's long-term water production shortage early this fall. The decision will follow on the heels of several key decisions on the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, including the Johnson County Commission's promised up-or-down September decision on Oz Entertainment Co.'s redevelopment plan for Sunflower.
Once the water decision is made, the city council will start consideration of a five- to 10-year capital improvement plan that city engineer Mike Brungardt is developing. The capital improvement plan will address maintenance and expansion of city facilities, including waste-water, Brungardt said.
The city's present sewer plant is operating at 66 percent of its capacity, and could be expanded to handle 25 to 30 percent more, Brungardt said. "We should be able to accommodate double the flow we have now without building a new plant," he said. "That should see us through the next five to 10 years."
Anderson said De Soto should consider sewer improvements in conjunction with an update of its comprehensive plan.
The city needs to identify two to three residential subdivisions and added retail and industrial sites, Anderson said. The key to providing sewer service to those future developments economically is to locate them in sites that don't require pumping, he said.
That would appear to exclude property in the Cedar Creek watershed, an area adjacent to the Shawnee, Lenexa and Olathe growth areas.
Any large expansion of sewer capacity in that area can await the arrival of the Johnson County Wastewater District, Anderson said.
Johnson County Wastewater District director Doug Smith said he met with former De Soto Mayor Steve Prudden and past City Administrator Al Figuly a number of years ago about the county expanding into De Soto.
Smith said he told the De Soto representatives that the county wasn't in the position to provide sewer service to De Soto in the immediate future. The message is the same today. Smith said it would be six to 10 years before the county expands into De Soto.
The county presently provides service to De Soto's eastern city limits at Moonlight Road. As such, it already serves the lower portion of the Cedar Creek watershed, Smith said.
The county has a "conceptual plan" to build a sewer treatment plant on the Kansas River that would serve the Cedar Creek and Kill Creek watersheds, Smith said. As yet, the district hasn't decided when and where the plant will be built.
"That will be driven by demand," Smith said. "We like to think we are market driven, rather than government telling you where sewers are going to go. We figure they know more about this than we do."
The "they" would be citizens petitioning the county to create a waste-water subdistrict. Smith said petitioners are either developers or residents of subdivisions served by septic systems.
With no sewer plant online, the county would have to turn down any such petition from De Soto as premature, Smith said.
The county would become interested if a large number of septic subdivisions were planned. It costs the county more to install sewers in developed areas because it must restore yards and driveways to the expectations of landowners, Smith said.
"We like to stay a step ahead of developers," he said. "We don't like to go back into an area to put in sewers."
There is another prerequisite to the county's expansion into De Soto, Smith said.
"We don't go looking for jurisdictions to take over," he said. "We have to be officially invited to extend service.
"We would like to start talking about it (with De Soto)."
Anderson agreed, suggesting discussions should start with the completion of the capital improvement plan.