Archive for Thursday, November 3, 2005

De Soto studying water options

November 3, 2005

For seven years, the city of De Soto battled to get title to the water treatment facility it was leasing at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. Now with ownership in hand, city officials must decide if they want to keep it.

To answer that question, the De Soto City Council agreed earlier this month to restart a review of the city's options in providing for future water needs. Because of a multi-jurisdictional local environment, the answers to those questions do not concern De Soto alone. They could well lie with and affect a surrounding water district and future development on Sunflower.

The $75,000 so-called water master plan was put on hold early this year because of the uncertainty concerning the transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. With future ownership of the Sunflower treatment plant available if wanted, the council gave consultant Burns & McDonnell the green light to restart the study that will give the council hard numbers on five different options. Those include renovating the Sunflower plant to serve only De Soto's present and future needs, making improvements at the plant to serve De Soto and other customers, building a new plant elsewhere looking at the same two options, and purchasing water from the city of Olathe.

The city's capital improvement plan completed in 2002 estimated the city's Sunflower sub-surface water treatment plant could treat 4 million gallons a day with an investment of $2.3 million, an amount thought to be sufficient to supply De Soto and several customers for 20 years. That same CIP estimated the plant could treat 12 million gallons a day with an additional $8.3 million in improvements.

As the Sunflower transfer drug on, the city was forced to make some of the improvements at the water treatment plant visualized in the 2002 CIP. Also, Brungradt said estimated developed four to five years ago were no longer reliable, and will thus be reviewed again in the master plan.

At the request of Sunflower's new owner, Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, one additional option may be added to the list. Should the developer agree to conditions, the study would also look at the feasibility of renovating Sunflower's surface water plant at 95th Street and Sunflower Road.

Renovation of that surface treatment plant was never seriously considered because of its size, Brungardt told the council. Although of the same age and technology of the well-field supplied plant the city has leased, the surface plant is much bigger. During the heyday of Sunflower production, the surface water plant could treat 80 million gallons a day drawn from the Kansas River.

Burns & McDonnell consultant Jeff Kline said the surface water plant could be included for a price, which council members made clear would have to be passed on to Sunflower Redevelopment. Kline assured the council that would create no conflict of interest and the review would be carried out with the same city considerations as the other options.

Sunflower Redevelopment would prefer the ground water treatment plant be razed with the rest of the existing buildings on Sunflower, Brungardt said. A blank slate would give the developer more flexibility in creating a plan for future development.

Although the study will look at options that would only serve the city's current and future needs, it was agreed in the past De Soto would need more customers both in and out of the city to make renovation of the Sunflower plant work.

Some of that enlarged customer base would come from growth, but other potential customers could include future development on Sunflower and members of a consortium of rural water districts and municipalities from Johnson, Douglas, Franklin and Miami counties. The consortium completed a study last year that identified water sources and looked at ways members could work together to satisfy future needs.

"It was a very complex study," said Mark Crumbaker, general manager of Johnson County Consolidated Rural Water District No. 6. "What came out of that is that many of the people involved in that are already starting to work with each other. We (RWD No. 6) are wholesaling to Douglas County."

Members of the consortium do represent potential customers for De Soto water, as does RWD No. 6, Crumbaker said.

Crumbaker said the water district had an agreement to purchase wholesale water from Olathe. That agreement provided enough water to satisfy its current 700 customers, but the water district is in the process of planning for its long-range needs past 2011, he said.

The water district serves De Soto south of Kansas Highway 10 (with the exception of Clearview City), some territory in Olathe Township and most of rural Lexington Township outside of Sunflower. Within its boundaries is the area near Edgerton Road and to the west the city of De Soto has identified as a growth area with the completion of a sewer treatment plant in early 2007.

The presence of sewers would likely open that area to suburban development of three to four homes per acre.

"That's something we certainly could serve," Crumbaker said. "It's certainly something we would work with the city to determine exactly what would happen.

"We've talked to them in the past. We're scheduled to talk to them again."

Crumbaker said he was confident something could be worked out that served the interests of the city, water district and, most importantly, customers.

The renewed talks will be part of the water study. Kline said the study should be complete near the end of the year. He would give the council periodic reports before that time.

"We are going to help you make these decisions as incrementally and comprehensively as we can," Kline said.

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