Archive for Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stimulus package could make water upgrades more affordable

February 5, 2009

The city of De Soto is looking to Washington for help in upgrading its water utility.

On the De Soto City Council’s agenda for Thursday is consideration of a Kansas Department of Health and Environment inquiry to local governments about potential projects to be funded by a federal economic stimulus package.

The council is considering two options for the improvement of the water utility: A partnership with Johnson Country Rural Water District No. 1 to supply water purchased form Olathe at a cost to the city of $3.98 million or the renovation of the water treatment plant on Sunflower or $6 mllion.

In a report to the council, City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle wrote that it is expected the money would be made available as grants or no-interest loans. No rate increase would have to be passed on to water customers should the city receive a grant of 5.6 percent of the estimated project cost for the waterline project. Likewise, no rate increase would be needed for the Sunflower plant renovation should the city receive a 25.5 percent grant for the project coupled with an interest-free loan, Guilfoyle wrote.

KDHE anticipates funds will be available in February, but the catch is the agency will give preference to projects ready for construction this summer, and the council is yet to select an option.

Guilfoyle recommended the council make applications for both projects.

The KDHE letter follows the city sending letters to the offices of Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. Pat Roberts and Congressman Dennis Moore asking that financial support for the city’s water system upgrade be included in an federal stimulus package.

There was no response from Brownback or Moore’s office. Roberts’ office did respond, and aide Chad Tenpenny visited De Soto last month.

Guilfoyle said details of the two alternatives, including costs, were shared with Tenpenny, who then toured the Sunflower water plant. Tenpenny’s advice, Guilfoyle said, was that the city should request money for the upgrade be part of the stimulus package although no promises could be made. The reasoning was that of playing the lottery: You can’t win if you don’t play.

“He gave us several hours,” Guilfoyle said of Tenpenny. “He was very attentive, very interested. He’s not the senator, Obama or the senate, but now when the city council decides which way it wants to go and we reach back to our delegation, at least one of them knows what we are trying to do.”

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