Archive for Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fire service, water top 2009 resolution list

December 31, 2008

With the start of the new year, it is time again for our community resolution list. The list, now in its eighth year, is not a vow for self-improvement, but rather a list of issues we would like to see resolved in the coming year.

Last year, De Soto USD 232 voters finally removed an item from the list with the approval of a $75 million bond issue. The item was a regular on the list for the past three years, but even that takes a backseat to the duration of two city issues on the list.

The first would be the final work to merge the De Soto Fire Department and Johnson Count Rural Water District No. 3. The early part of this decade saw the city unsuccessfully request the Johnson County Commission detach that part of the fire district within its limits and file and withdraw a lawsuit seeking the same thing. That was followed by a general agreement some kind of consolidation was needed but that remained mostly talk until the last two years. Real progress was made last year with passage of a state statute that allows the merger in a way that will create a new department and the De Soto City Council, fire board and county commission’s approval of an agreement establishing a committee to work out the details of a merged department.

Thorny issues involving leadership and personnel remain. Those will make news in the coming year, but it is our hope they aren’t sufficient to derail the realization of a new combined department on Jan. 1, 2010.

The city council is also wrestling with the city’s water utility future. The discussion has narrowed to partnering with Johnson County Rural Water District No. 6 to purchase water from Olathe or renovating the Sunflower water plant. As we wrote two years ago, the goal should be to develop a reliable source of water at the best cost to city water rate payers. There is still honest disagreement on which of the two alternatives best address those goals. Resolution of the issue would benefit from greater community input and awareness of the consequences of the alternatives.

USD 232 resolved its growth needs, thanks to the passage of the bond issue and the decision to pay for the expansions of Starside and Clear Creek elementary schools with the district’s capital outlay fund. But just as those space issues were resolved, the economic downturn and the state’s revenue shortfall presented the district with another challenge. It appears probable that state school districts will see no additional per-student money for the next year. Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said that would necessitate a priority review of all district programs. It is a review that will involve district patrons, the superintendent promised. It seems inescapable programs, or put another way student opportunities, will be scaled back or eliminated. It is not something to look forward to, but we applaud the district’s early commitment to involve the public in the tough process.

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