Commission contemplates forming sewer district
As development continues in southern Leavenworth County, county commissioners are looking at whether to form a rural sewer district.
Such a district, as envisioned by county officials, would serve residents south of Fairmount Road.
"This process is in no way designed to interfere with Basehor or Tonganoxie," county counselor David Van Parys told county commissioners during a study session last week. "It's a means to look for a better coordinated means for providing wastewater treatment for the southern end of the county."
Van Parys said pressure is mounting in the southern portion of the county. Development is applying part of that pressure. And the Kansas Department of Health and Environment wants to move existing rural residential subdivisions away from septic tanks and lagoon systems.
Van Parys said he views a county-driven sewer district as a way to enhance life in southern Leavenworth County.
"It would greatly improve the value of the property of those citizens to have this available to them," he said.
Under a county sewer district, the county would create an independent board to manage the district. That board, however, would be controlled by the county commission. Just how far the county would get into the sewer business -- for example, whether it would build a sewage treatment plant -- remains a question.
Basehor Mayor Chris Garcia, who did not attend last week's meeting, said a county district is worth considering. His community is under the gun to either expand its existing sewage treatment plant or construct a new plant in southeast Basehor -- or both.
And Basehor must act soon, Garcia said, before the existing plant reaches capacity. If that were to happen, KDHE would place a moratorium on new hookups to the plant, essentially stalling new development.
"I think we actually can be working on both," Garcia said.
While Garcia wasn't at last week's meeting, Basehor City Council member Bill Hooker did attend, along with city engineer Joe McAfee and city superintendent Gene Myracle.
"This is an excellent idea to spur development and control consistency in the Third District," McAfee said. ''... I certainly think it's excellent that you're looking at something this big-picture down there."
The Basehor sewer plant will be at capacity in 18 to 24 months, depending on how much and how fast development occurs in the city, Garcia said. And Briarwood and Glenwood developments south of Basehor must come onto a sewer system, instead of depending on lagoons and septic systems, he said.
It's possible, too, that the county would look at higher-density developments if the sewer district were formed, county planning director Chris Dunn said. Currently, the minimum buildable lot size is 2.5 acres in Leavenworth County.
The county also is in early discussions with Bonner Springs about what role that city might play, according to county commission chairman Dean Oroke, who represents southern Leavenworth County.
"They also are under pressure presently by a developer who has 180 acres south of K-32, adjacent to 142nd Street, who wants to put in a subdivision immediately," Oroke said. "In order for Bonner Springs to serve the northwest part of their city, the main interceptor lines would need to be in the Leavenworth County, in the Wolf Creek drainage area."
Bonner Springs officials are not interested in annexing any land in Leavenworth County, Oroke said.
Oroke said it makes sense to look at the needs of Basehor and Bonner Springs, as well as the unincorporated areas of the county, and determine how those needs mesh.
About a year ago, work was completed on a new sewage treatment plant in Tonganoxie. That plant can process 750,000 gallons of waste a day, compared with the old plant, which had a capacity of 400,000 gallons a day.
Rod Geisler, chief of municipal services section of the Kansas Bureau of Water, told commissioners that a county sewer district could work with cities.
"This would create an agency that could coordinate with the cities, planning for that future growth as it comes, rather than reacting to the problems as they flare up," he said. "I think it would be advantageous to help reduce and eliminate surprises in the future, with a well thought-out plan and coordination with the cities."
Oroke said he anticipated further meetings with Bonner Springs officials -- as well as meetings with city officials of Basehor and rural residents.
"It seems this question has hung around the county for 12 or 15 years," he said. "We continue to see more development that creates more pressure. All the time, it's getting more costly. ... From my perspective, we need to start at least discussing and looking at the possibilities of it and trying to relieve some of the pressures and get some of the things addressed that we have lingering out there."