Mayor, Surbaugh to discuss SFAAP treatment plant
De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson and Johnson County Commission Chairwoman Annabeth Surbaugh will meet in the coming days to discuss De Soto's bid to secure title to the water treatment plant at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
Anderson said Tuesday the meeting had not yet been scheduled.
"I'm ready anytime," he said.
The water plant became a point of disagreement when city officials learned last month that the county wasn't supporting its efforts to unlink the water plant's transfer from that of the entire plant. The effort was started at the suggestion of Blaine Hastings, the Sunflower project manager for the U.S. General Services Administration who was seeking the U.S. Justice Department's cooperation for the expedited transfer.
De Soto officials want title to the plant the city has leased for five years so they can finance improvements needed to make it more efficient and reliable.
At last Thursday's Johnson County Commission meeting, Commissioner John Toplikar called for meeting with De Soto officials on the issue. His call came after he and other commissioners received a letter signed by four De Soto City Council members and Anderson explaining De Soto's history at the Sunflower water plant and asking for the County Commission's support in securing title to the plant.
Commissioners agreed Surbaugh and County Counselor Don Jarrett would have a closed-door session with Anderson to discuss the issue. City Attorney Patrick Reavey will also attend the meeting.
Surbaugh refused to speculate whether the meeting would change the county's position.
"It's too early to say," she said. "I think we should listen to what they have to say."
Anderson said he would once again relate a summary of the city's involvement with the water plant. That includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' support that title of the plant be given to De Soto as a public benefit transfer.The mayor said he would point out the water plant was unique among the various proposed Sunflower public benefit transfer in that it was needed immediately because it currently provided De Soto with most of its water. He would also remind Surbaugh and Jarrett that the water plant was needed for the Army's structure burning program at Sunflower.
He would demand the County Commission vote on the issue regardless of the outcome of the meeting, Anderson said.
De Soto City Councilwoman Linda Zindler sent commissioners a letter dissenting from that of her fellow Council members and Anderson.
"I believe if we were going to get the water plant, that would have happened," she said. "Blaine Hastings has held us off for five years.
"I've given up on that. I really think we should pursue other options."
De Soto water customers can't afford the necessary improvements at the Sunflower water plant unless the city finds more customers to share in the cost, Zindler said. The city's ongoing discussions with Water One would probably offer water customers better rates even through the cost to connect to that utility was about the same as the $4.5 million needed to upgrade the Sunflower facility, she said.
"We need to have a serious discussion on numbers," she said. "Even if we make the improvements, the cost of producing water is higher than we can buy treated water."
The water plant is just the latest in a series of issues on which Anderson and Surbaugh have differed, the most basic of which being the creation and function of Sunflower redevelopment authority.
When the Kansas Legislature passed a bill allowing the county to create such a body last spring, Anderson backed the position of State Reps. Rob Boyer and John Ballou, who wanted language making the creation of the board mandatory. Surbaugh and county officials argued for, and ultimately got, language giving the County Commission the option of creatauthority with a key role in helping the County Commission select a developer for Sunflower.
During County Commission work sessions, Surbaugh has argued that the Commission make a basic decision before creating the authority. Jarrett is negotiating the county's purchase of Sunflower with various federal agencies. He is also negotiating its subsequent sale to Kessinger/Hunter and Co., although the Commission has given other possible developers until Nov. 15 to make their interest in the closed plant known.
Surbaugh has argued the redevelopment authority would have a vastly different role should the county purchase Sunflower without a "take-down" developer. She advocated the Commission wait until it has a better sense of how Sunflower would be transferred to create the redevelopment authority so the skills of its members match its tasks.