Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Water talks start again

December 18, 2008

After a three-month hiatus, the De Soto City Council will return Thursday to its consideration of the future of the city’s water utility with another look at an option once dismissed.

The council last discussed the future of the water department in September. That meeting followed deliberations during the summer that narrowed consideration to two options: Refurbishing the water treatment plant on Sunflower it operates and is to eventually own, or entering into a partnership with Johnson County Rural Water District No. 6 to buy water from Olathe.

The first option would require the city spend $6 million to upgrade the Sunflower plant, while a wholesale agreement would require the city spend an estimated $3.98 million, or 72.1 percent of the cost of the line, water tower and connections the water district would own and maintain.

Figures shared at the September workshop indicated a wholesale agreement would necessitate a hike in the average customer’s bill of $8.20 a month while renovating the Sunflower water plant would increase the bill $13.42 monthly.

At that September meeting, the majority of the council indicated an early preference for upgrading the Sunflower plant.

But before the council makes any decision about the two basic options, it will revisit the alternative of the city producing wholesale water for regional customers at the Sunflower plant. City staff, with the help of a 2006 Burns and McDonald engineering study, found that was not to be viable because of the lack of customers.

“I thought we covered that pretty well,” city engineer Mike Brungardt said.

The presentation by Tom O’Mally of Larking Group Inc. will include a look at other regional water arrangements, need plant modifications, cost estimates and a look at possible participants.

That list includes at least three entities — Johnson County Rural Water No. 6, Sunflower Redevelopment Inc., and the city of Eudora — have no interest in purchasing water from De Soto.

The new owners of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant responded with a reiteration that they are not ready to make any decisions. Cheryl Beatty, the city administrator of Eudora, told De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfolye if that city was interested in a wholesale arrangement, the city of Lawrence with a line only a mile away could do so far more economically.

The water district also wasn’t interested and plans to continue to pursue a wholesale agreement with Olathe, said the water district’s board president Mark Crumbaker.

“I even talked to Larkin about the number,” he said. “And it was clear the numbers from Olathe were much more cost effective.”

Crumbaker said he hoped the city would join the water district in that arrangement. One of the sticking points for council members during the September discussion was the water district’s ownership of the water line.

“We have a lot of flexibility,” he said. “It makes sense to both of use to cooperate.

“We are in a period to do construction. We anticipate there will be funding available with all the infrastructure spending they are talking about. We want to be involved in that.”

Should the city decide to refurbish the Sunflower water plant, the water district — which already serves areas of De Soto and will serve its projected future growth areas — would go ahead with the waterline’s installation, but with a possible smaller line, Crumbaker said.

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