Archive for Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wholesale water district talks start

April 9, 2009

Four of the five parties attending the first meeting on a possible wholesale water district supplied by the Sunflower water treatment plant have agreed to participate in a feasibility study of such an arrangement.

In an oral report last Thursday to the De Soto City Council, De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said that he, De Soto City Councilwoman Mitra Templin and city engineer Mike Brungardt met March 27 with representatives of Johnson County Rural Water Districts No. 6 and 7, Douglas County Rural Water District No. 4 and the city of Eudora to gauge interest in such a water district. Also in attendance was Clearview Village Inc. owner David Rhodes.

The city council agreed in February to renovate the Sunflower water plant. In making the decision, council members agreed there was a need to find partners in the plant’s renovation and operation to spare De Soto water customers the full brunt of the costs of the needed improvements.

Guilfoyle said the only participant in the opening meeting with no immediate interest was the city of Eudora because its current water plant was adequate to meet its needs for the next 10 to 15 years. He characterized that city’s attitude as, “It’s interesting. Keep use informed.”

By contrast, three water districts were interested enough to help De Soto share in the expensive of a feasibility study of a wholesale water district. Brungardt said the parties would apply for a Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant that would provide a 50 percent match of up to $25,000. It was the general consensus of those at the meeting the study shouldn’t require the maximum KDHE grant.

The city and the water district met again Wednesday.

The city is seeking proposals for a more extensive study of its own that would define and plan improvements needed to satisfy the city’s needs. Brungardt said the consultant would be made aware of the possible water district to avoid improvements that wouldn’t be compatible with a wholesale arrangement or duplicate the feasibility study findings.

Mark Crumbaker, manager of Johnson County Water District No. 6, told The Explorer last month his board was interesting in exploring creation of a water district. The cost to the district would determine whether it would become a partner in the plant.

Alan Soetaert, manager of Johnson County Water District No. 7, said the position of RWD No. 7 was much like its northern neighbor RWD. No. 6. Its current contract with Olathe expires in 2011, and it is exploring other possible sources of water, he said.

The water district serves rural areas in southwestern Johnson County, some areas of Spring Hill and a portion of Miami County north of Hillsdale Lake. Contrary to some comments made in recent months, the water district does not serve the New Century, Soetaert said.

Like Crumbaker, Soetaert said cost would be the determining factor in selecting a water supply. The water district is comfortable with a water purchase arrangement, having grown and prospered under such contracts, he said.

“That would be a nice thing, but I not aware what the benefits are,” Soetaert said of owning part of a water treatment facility. “What we will look at is strictly costs.”

A side agreement to the overall transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant to Sunflower Redevelopment L.L.C. deeds the water plant to the city of De Soto when the treatment plant property has been certified free of environmental pollution.

One question that would have to be answered was the worth of the Sunflower water plant and what any other partners joining in the wholesale district should pay the city of De Soto for a share of the plant gifted to the city, Brungardt said.

The city has put $500,000 into the plant and its well field since it started producing water there about a decade ago, Brungardt said. The city could also expect some equity for the plant, he said.

However, with cost the water districts’ determining factor in joining in a partnership at the plant, requesting too much equity might make them look elsewhere.

Mayor Dave Anderson reminded the council the city had a one-time opportunity to form the wholesale water district and needed to act with some urgency to answer outstanding questions.

The two Johnson County water districts had contracts to purchase water from Olathe that expired in 2011, Anderson said. Any longterm contracts they signed with Olathe would remove any opportunity for the city to find partners, he said.

As those talks start, the city is looking to Congress for money to help upgrade the Sunflower plant. Guilfoyle told the council earlier last month that Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Dennis Moore were involved with efforts to secure funding through both stimulus money and as an earmark in the annual appropriations bill.

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