Sewer project, lawsuit appeal get city council attention
Early steps toward an upgraded sewer plant and an appeal of the BPU electrical lawsuit were taken by the Baldwin City Council during Monday's meeting.
The preliminary work for applying for a $400,000 community development block grant to help pay for the sewer project, passing various resolutions regarding the $3.3 million project and choosing an engineering firm for the project were taken care of.
The council also heard a report from City Attorney Bob Bezek regarding the failed suit against the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (BPU) resulting from exorbitant electricity prices paid in the summer of 1999. Baldwin and six other cities joined in the lawsuit against BPU. Franklin County District Court Judge James Smith dismissed the $1.4 million suit recently.
"That is a gutsy thing for a judge to do and leaves it open for appeal," Bezek said. "At the end (of the two-day trial) the judge made a couple of rulings that were difficult and I think we should not accept them.
"I think we have grounds for appeal and I think we have good grounds for appeal," he said.
At stake for Baldwin is $300,000 which had to be paid to BPU for electricity while the Nearman Plant was incapacitated in July and August of 1999. Ottawa, another city in the lawsuit, was charged $700,000. Baldwin council members were curious about what the Ottawa council will do before deciding to pursue the appeal.
"I haven't talked to them yet," said Bezek, who is also Ottawa's city attorney. "They will hear the same information. I wouldn't say what they might do."
But, he said he feels like the case definitely deserves an appeal.
"Trials are like fights. I've never been in a fight where I didn't get hit," he said. "Frankly, I think the judge made a mistake. I made mistakes, too. A trial isn't supposed to be perfect, it's supposed to be fair. I don't see walking away from $300,000 because of an adverse decision."
All council members agreed to see what Ottawa did before making a decision on whether to appeal. The appeal would cost between $8,000 and $9,000, which would be split up by the participating cities.
"Let's wait and see," said Marilyn Pearse, council president.
As for the sewer plant upgrade, it would increase capacity from the present 440,000 gallons to 900,000 gallons. That's expected to take care of anticipated growth for 20 years, with projections calling for 9,000 residents in Baldwin, up from the present 3,500.
All resolutions for the project passed on 5-0 votes, except for the last one assuring that funding for the project will be in place. Council member Lee Whaley voted no, but it passed 4-1.
"My concern is still the growth and whether the money will be there to pay for it," said Whaley.
The council also unanimously approved BG Consultants as engineers for the project, partly because of its timetable for completion by 2002.