Archive for Thursday, March 12, 2009

City, water district officials to meet about possible partnership

March 12, 2009

The De Soto City Council started dealing last Thursday with the decisions that will follow its vote last month to renovate the Sunflower water treatment plant.

After a year of deliberations, the council agreed last month to renovate the water treatment plant at Sunflower, effectively ending talks of partnering with Johnson County Water District No. 6 to purchase water from Olathe.

But a long list of details must be addressed before the city can go forward with the renovation. Those include clearing up water rights issues, getting plans in place for the $1.72 million in upgrades said to be critical to make the Sunflower plant dependable, securing defined easements for the needed upgrades on Sunflower, getting the title to the water plant promised to the city in the 2005 agreement to transfer the closed Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant to Sunflower Redevelopment L.L.C.

Also on the agenda in coming months is the city’s push to find partners in the renovation and operation of the Sunflower water plant.

City of De Soto officials and representatives from Johnson County Rural Water Districts Nos. 6 and 7 and Douglas County Rural Water District No. 4 will meet late this months about a cooperative effort making use of the Sunflower water treatment plant.

Mark Crumbaker, chairman of the Johnson County Water District No. 6, said Tuesday water district officials were ready to talk with city officials about an arrangement that would use the Sunflower water treatment plant as a public wholesale water facility.

In such a partnership, the Sunflower plant would be jointly owned and operated by the members of the cooperative.

“We’re sincere in wanting to talk about it,” Crumbaker said. “Hopefully, it will work out. On the otherhand, it’s all about the numbers.

“Money’s the driving factor. It will always matter. It’s not an emotional issue for us.”

In a written report presented the city council last Thursday, city engineer Mike Brungardt wrote there are two big issues associated with the water rights. First, the city needs to make application to the state to modify its rights to the well field that supplied the old water plant on Shawnee Street so that the water can be treated at the Sunflower plant.

The city also needs Sunflower Redevelopment L.L.C. to sign off on agreement the city offered to end its lawsuit against the developer and the Kansas Department of Water Resources. The lawsuit was filed when, in 2007, the Kansas Department of Water Resource issued a ruling stating water rights, which were associated with the well fields that supplied the ammunition plant, were part of the overall transfer of Sunflower to its new owners.

The settlement offered would give De Soto exclusive use of the Army’s old Sunflower well field south of the Kansas River and the water rights associated with it. De Soto would give up the well field north of the river and agree not to seek water rights associated with it.

Sunflower Redevelopment hasn’t acted on the request, Guilfoyle said, because it wants to concentrate the environmental remediation of Sunflower. And the Kansas Water Resource Department won’t act on any request regarding the water rights while the lawsuit is still active, he said.

The city also needs Sunflower Redevelopment to grant the easements needed to upgrade the powerlines into the water treatment plant and the new waterlines from the plant to the city’s nearest improved waterline. Last month, city water supervisor Clarence Brunk identified those two upgrades and a backup power generator as the most critical improvements needed at the Sunflower treatment plant.

It is estimated those improvements would cost $1.72 million. Guilfoyle said the city should postpone issuing a bond for the improvements until it was learned if the city would receive stimulus money or funding in an federal appropriations bill to pay for the improvements. Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Dennis Moore are supportive of the efforts, he said.

The council agreed to seek requests for qualifications from engineering firms for the upgrades needed at the water treatment plant. It was also agreed to invite representatives from Larkin and Associates to the upcoming meeting on a possible wholesale water district with representatives of Johnson County Rural Water Districts Nos. 7 and 8 and Douglas Country Rural Water District No. 4.

Larkin presented information on such districts to the council in December and council members expressed a desire for such an arrangement when they voted to renovate the plant last month.

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