Mayor sets deadline for water decisions
The De Soto City Council has agreed to find a solution to its long-term water supply as it committed to further investments at the water treatment plant it operates at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
Last Thursday, the city council had a public hearing on its application for a $750,000 loan from the state of Kansas. City Administrator Gerald Cooper said the loan would provide a short-term means to finance a $500,000 12-inch waterline connecting the Sunflower water plant to the city. It will also provide funds to bring electricity and heat to the plant in anticipation of the Army's shutting off those utilities at the end of the year.
The city will eventually pay for the improvements through bonds, which have a better interest rate, the city administrator said. The bonds will be retired through the sale of water to the new Intervet Inc. campus now being built in west De Soto and other new development.
After the council agreed to apply for the loan, Mayor Dave Anderson said he wanted the council to engage in a debate abate water issues the city will face the future so that it could start making decisions in three or four months about how to address its long-term water needs.
Anderson outlined the issues as:
A city owned water plant versus purchasing water an outside provides.
The city's future capacity needs. Anderson said the city should consider its present and future needs and any added capacity it would need if the city was to sell water to other cities or water districts in the future.
Renovating the Sunflower water plant versus building a new plant.
To make a decision, the council will need a rate structure survey, a true picture of the cost of producing water and the cost of purchasing water, Anderson said.
The council has expressed a determination to end the practice of subsidizing the water department with money from general funds. Anderson has pointed out the practice has a detrimental effect of the level of services provided by other department. Council member Linda Zindler added it isn't fair to use tax dollars collected from De Soto residential served by rural water districts for the water department.
In 2002, Cooper estimated the water department's budget at $700,000, which is $200,000 more than its revenues. To be able to do so, the council agreed it would have to raise water rates and a 10-percent increase was built into next year's budget.
The council agreed last Thursday the rate increase should not be across the board but be aimed at high volume users. The city's current rate structure rewards large water users with lower rates.
Council member John Taylor said he wouldn't support the purchase of water from an outside source. He insisted the two most likely candidates to provide water, Olathe or Johnson County Water District No. 1, would demand so much for water it would increase water rates in De Soto to an unacceptable level. He also questioned the reliability of those agreements over the long term.
But Council members Tim Maniez and Brad Seaman said the city has never tried to make a deal with Olathe or Johnson County Water District No. 1. They argued the city was obligated to get figures as it makes a decision for the future.
"I agree with you, I think we'll want to own our own water," Seaman told Taylor. "But we have to get it on paper, so when people ask, we can say, 'We checked it out.'"