Archive for Thursday, September 10, 2009

Water plant upgrade timeline established

September 10, 2009

The De Soto City Council will be making big decisions regarding the city’s water department in the coming months, according to an outline city engineer Mike Brungardt shared Thursday with the council.

City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said activity was moving forward on several fronts concerning the city’s water utility. All the activity stemmed from the council’s February decision to renovate the water plant at the old Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant and explore a wholesale water cooperative with members supplied by the plant.

The outline set a timeline of the many “moving parts” currently under consideration, Brungardt said. Those include:

• Progress of a feasibility study of the formation of a wholesale water cooperative.

• Negotiations with Sunflower Redevelopment LLC about water rights and easements.

• Plans to make the needed upgrades at the city water plant.

• Financing the upgrades.

Despite the desperate but interrelated activities, Brungardt said the council would be presented with funding requests regarding water plant upgrades before the end of the year. Those would probably include purchase of a generator to provide emergency backup power to the plant.

A backup generator, as well as replacement of the electrical lines inside the old ammunition plant to the water treatment facility and waterline upgrades there, were the three most critical improvements city water supervisor Clarence Brunk identified when the city council agreed to renovate the plant.

The electrical situation is considered especially vulnerable as the current utility poles are thought to be in the same shape as one discovered to be weakened with dry rot when it failed after a storm this summer.

The 2005 agreement that transferred the old ammunition plant to Sunflower Redevelopment required the company to give De Soto title to the water plant once it was certified free of environmental contamination as well as easements for utilities and waterlines. However, the agreement also gave the developer until the end of 2009 to provide the easements before the city could seek them through condemnation.

City officials are confident a negotiated agreement with Sunflower Redevelopment would be completed within the next month, resolving issues concerning water rights to the old Sunflower well field and easements. However, Brungardt said city staff couldn’t entirely control that timeline.

The three upgrades Brunk identified would be needed whether De Soto ran the plant for its own use or entered into a cooperative agreement.

The city should learn late this month the results of the feasibility study, Brungardt said. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment provided a $25,000 grant that paid for half the feasibility study, with De Soto, the city of Gardner and Johnson County Rural Water District No. 6 and 7 equaling contributing for the required match.

A draft report indicating whether a water cooperative would be financially viable is expected to be available in late September, Brungardt said. The “go or no-go” answer of a water cooperative, the

The formation of a water cooperative would require joints talks and negotiations similar to those that led to the creation of the Northwest Johnson County Fire District, Brungardt said.

He estimated with would take all of 2010 to establish the cooperative and get a governing board in place.

Although the city has a study for improvements needed to stabilize the plant, it was agreed in July to contract an engineering firm to identify those improvements needed beyond the three Brunk cited and their cost. Brungardt said after initial interviews a list of possible firms to do that study was now down to two and that firm awarded a contract for the study in November. 2006

Should the city move forward with the water plant’s renovations alone, it would complete the contemplated improvements at the plant by August 2011. Brungardt estimated those upgrades would be finished by the end of 2012 should a cooperative be formed.

With a direction on the cooperative expected in the next two months and the need to move forward with the three critical improvements, Brungardt and Guilfolye said the council could expect a funding request by the end of the year.

Funding would require bonds, Guilfoyle said. Before coming to the council with a proposal, he wanted to talk with the city’s financial advisors to ensure that the bonds wouldn’t adversely affect the city’s bond rating.

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