County to support city’s Sunflower water plant bid
Anderson ready to move forward with needed improvements
In an apparent reversal of their earlier position, Johnson County officials agreed this week to help in De Soto's attempt to secure a quick transfer of the water plant at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
The county's commitment came after De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson met Monday with City Commission Chairwoman Annabeth Surbaugh.
"The county is working on a draft to a solution to the transfer of the water plant," Anderson said. "It will allow the county to feel like it's not breaking its pledge to transfer Sunflower as one entity."
Surbaugh said details of the arrangement would be discussed at a Dec. 11 County Commission work session on Sunflower.
The city and county needed to cooperate to make progress on planning, infrastructure and other issues regarding Sunflower, Surbaugh said, and expressed hope that Monday's discussion would lead to greater cooperation.
The city has leased the Sunflower water plant since 1998 but has foregone investing in major improvements because of questions surrounding the title. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department recommended the water plant's public benefit transfer to De Soto. The U.S. General Services Administration, which is handling the Sunflower transfer, supported unlinking its transfer from the rest of the Sunflower property. The city's effort to move the process along, however, hit a snag when city officials learned the county didn't support that effort because of its longstanding policy calling for all Sunflower property to be transferred at once.
Anderson said he was confident the arrangement would give the city title to the water plant within a year. That confidence, coupled with the City Council's decision from earlier this month to end talks with Johnson County Water One that would have made that utility the city's water provider, had Anderson ready to act on the Sunflower water plant.
Anderson said he would ask the City Council to use the approximately $2.5 million in the utility fund established with the sale of the city's electrical distribution system to make preliminary upgrades at the plant and start a search for customers needed to make water rates affordable. More specifically, the mayor's proposal would establish a reserve fund to:
¢ Hire staff to market and sell water while initiating discussions in establishing a water cooperative with nearby water districts and cities.
¢ Start making some of the crucial improvements City Engineer Mike Brungardt has proposed to make the plant more efficient.
"I'm not advocating we borrow any money now," he said. "We have a timeline to get the title, now. We could begin some of the improvements on our list."
Once title was secure, bonds would be issued for the remainder of the proposed improveder of the proposed improvements estimated to cost $4.7 million, Anderson said. A water department contingency fund would also be established under his proposal.
The City Council asked that Anderson also inform Surbaugh that the city would renew the joint city/county planning district along the city's southern limits if that so-called K-10 Overlay District included Sunflower property. Anderson said that issue was clouded with the possible creation of a Sunflower Redevelopment District, which would supersede the zoning entities of the county and the city.
Discussion or revisiting the county's Community in a Park land-use plan would be part of the County Commission's Dec. 11 work session, Surbaugh said.