Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2011

City council enters into water agreement with De Soto

March 24, 2011

After months of discussion and engineering studies, Baldwin City and De Soto city councils are partnering together to create a new water authority.

On Monday night, the Baldwin City Council unanimously voted to enter into an agreement to form the Sunflower Public Water and Utility Authority with De Soto. Wellsville and Douglas County Rural Water District No. 4 have also been asked to be partners in the water authority, and they will vote about joining the authority in the upcoming weeks.

The authority water would come for water treatment plant on the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant that De Soto has been operating for more than a decade. That city has made a commitment to further renovate the facility, which has a production capacity far beyond that city’s needs.

Should an authority be created, it — and not the city of De Soto — would own and operate the Sunflower water plant with member jurisdictions having a voting share in its decisions.

“If this authority is formed, we will move forward to combine a lot of the engineering work that we’ve had done individually along with all of the engineering work that’s been done by the other cities,” Baldwin City Administrator Jeff Dingman said at Monday’s city council meeting. “That will get us closer to where we feel comfortable entering into a long-term water supply contract with the water authority.”

Mayor Ken Wagner and Dingman both De Soto has done much of the groundwork on the project and now it was time to move forward. There will be a cost to the city of Baldwin City.

Engineering expenses and other related costs are estimated at $40,000. That cost will be divided equally between the four entities, if the water authority is formed by all four parties.

“It’s a commitment, but it’s not the final commitment,” Dingman said. “Entering into this agreement, still allows us to back out if we choose to do so.”

Before the city council approved the agreement, Councilwoman Bonnie Plumberg asked if being part of the water authority would lower water costs for Baldwin residents.

“From what that study says, we would see a decrease in our water rates compared to what we are paying today,” Wagner said. “Those are just estimates, so there is nothing solid yet.”

Dingman said there would be other benefits to the city.

“Number one, this would secure a long-term water supply,” he said. “Number two, we want to do this as efficient and economically as we can. The third part is we would be part of a water authority and have a vote at the table when decisions are made.”

Ted Brecheisen, who serves on the city’s utility committee, gave his approval Monday night.

“We’ve been looking at this for some time, and it looks like a win-win situation for us,” Brecheisen said. “We haven’t seen the cost, but it sure looks like a positive thing.”

The savings for Baldwin City residents will be dependent on several factors. The main one will be how much it costs the city to build the infrastructure to bring water to Baldwin City.

The city staff proposed a connection that would link the Sunflower water plant with the city’s existing pump house, which is located near the Cedar Hill Gun Club north of Baldwin City. The cost of the infrastructure improvements will be paid for by Baldwin City’s water rate.

“It’s pretty much unknown at this time,” Dingman said of possible savings to Baldwin City customers. “We did some evaluations on projections of water usage in 40 years and what the rates would be. That study compared what rates might be for this joint venture with De Soto and what they are for Lawrence. It should be a better rate than what we have now.”

As a part of the water authority, Baldwin City would have a member on the board. It would be purchasing water from the authority.

For now, Baldwin City and De Soto will wait to hear if RWD No. 4 and Wellsville join the water authority, too.

“The water authority isn’t doing anything yet,” Dingman said. “It’s next objective will be to create water-purchase contracts for each of the four entities. At that point, it will be doing something. Then it can plan for infrastructure improvements.”

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