Archive for Thursday, September 23, 2004

Basehor officials worry about payment

September 23, 2004

A benefit district for the U.S. Highway 24/40 interceptor line was never created, and now that the line is nearly completed, city officials aren't certain how the city can recoup money already spent on the project.

Members of the Basehor City Council discussed the dilemma during a work session Monday night. The meeting ended with almost as many questions as it began with.

The interceptor line is a long-planned project that would essentially connect areas east, west and south of the city to a sewer line feeding into the Basehor Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The project was designed to provide developments with a place for sewage, as well as provide the city with more revenue due to more users paying sewer fees. There's only one problem: no money for the project is coming in because city officials can't locate paperwork indicating a benefit district had been created.

"It's infuriating, to say the least, that this has gone on so long," City Council member John Bonee said. "It's a sad predicament, really."

"All this is, it's just hazardous. It makes you want to scream."

City Council members contended Monday night that the problem stemmed from mismanagement by former city staff.

City attorney John Thompson said the city must decide three things to correct mistakes from the past concerning the project: design a formula to allocate costs, decide how much the city is willing to spend on the project and find out how many property owners are willing to participate.

Jeff Scherer, developer of the Iron Creek and Creek Ridge residential subdivisions, said a previous oral agreement between landowners such as himself and city staff indicated the city would pay for upsizing the sewer line and 19 percent of the overall project cost, approximately $2 million. Scherer's brother and business partner, Joseph Scherer, is also the city's mayor; Joseph Scherer attended the work session but excused himself from conducting the meeting.

Jeff Scherer said the uncertainty surrounding the interceptor line could have negative impacts on property owners like himself who have projects in the works.

"I'm not the one that fell down on the job," Scherer said. "The city staff did."

City Council members did not agree to any of the costs Monday night. They advised Scherer to begin circulating a petition for area landowners with the understanding that, quite possibly, an agreement could be met between the two sides for the city to pay 19 percent of the total cost, or approximately $500,000.

City officials said they were alerted to the problem two months ago and in that time have been researching ways to resolve the problem. Thompson said he was unsure of possible legal ramifications that could stem from the mix-up, most notably because he's unaware of a similar case.

Normally, city officials said, a benefit district is created through a process of acquiring 51 percent participation from landowners affected by the project, the city's approval of a resolution calling for the project and then its construction.

Basehor City Council member Keith Sifford said the current Council members didn't cause the problem, but it's up to them to fix it.

"It was something handed down to us, but now we're the ones that have to fix it," he said.

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