Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2007

City, county officials air differences over sewers

September 13, 2007

Basehor Mayor Chris Garcia didn't mince words when he spoke at the beginning of a meeting this week on sewer and road improvements and future growth in the southern part of the county.

With representatives from the city of Basehor, Basehor-Linwood School District and several Leavenworth County agencies on hand at the meeting Monday night at the County Courthouse, Garcia spoke about his frustration with issues surrounding Sewer District No. 7, a county-operated wastewater system that services the Cedar Lakes and Cedar Falls subdivisions south of Basehor city limits.

"Personally, I felt like we're being shortchanged and are not being listened to," Garcia said. "We need to feel like we will get what we were promised, and I don't feel like we're getting that."

In 2005, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment notified Leavenworth County that the sewer district's wastewater lagoon, which was discharging beyond permitted levels, was to be decommissioned, and flows were to be redirected to the city of Basehor's sewer system.

Currently the lagoon has been decommissioned and connections to Basehor exist, but county and city officials still disagree on whether adequate compensation was afforded by the county to the city for the project.

In a letter dated Dec. 21, 2004, that was presented Monday by Basehor City Council member Iris Dysart, County Counselor David Van Parys designated an initial payment of $50,000 from Sewer District No. 7 to the city "for use in the current and future maintenance of Sewer District No. 7," as well as the remaining account balance in the district, estimated then around $24,800 and an assessment of about $21,200 for the year 2005.

Van Parys said in a phone interview Tuesday, however, that some of the decommissioning costs still were taken on by the county and not by funds set aside for that purpose.

Leavenworth County Public Works Deputy Director Mike Spickelmier said the cost to the county for decommissioning the lagoon was approximately $31,000.

It's not the sole monetary issue that pits the county vs. the city.

Additionally, Basehor officials said, two lots in the new Cedar Falls subdivision were issued building permits by the county without a functional lift station to treat wastewater.

The city hired a contractor to pump excess sewage from Cedar Falls, which was believed to be a one-time pumping, but it became a several-month-long process.

In earlier meetings, County Commissioner Dean Oroke said the county was only to be responsible for an initial pumping, but the city has sent the county bills for subsequent pumping as well.

Neither problem with Sewer District No. 7 was resolved Monday, but a task force including Spickelmier, Deputy County Clerk Janet Klasinski, John Flower, president of the Cedar Lakes Homeowners Association, Basehor City Administrator Carl Slaugh and Basehor City Superintendent Gene Myracle Jr. was formed to reconcile financial issues there.

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said he expects that to be accomplished by the end of the month.

Sewer District No. 3

Another county sewer district, Sewer District No. 3, which covers the Glenwood Estates subdivision and Glenwood Ridge Elementary School on 157th Terrace, is also above capacity.

In July, the county decided to install a surface aerator to improve the water quality in the sewer district's overloaded lagoon system and to bring the district, which has discharge levels above that permitted by KDHE, into compliance.

Spickelmier stressed that the aerator, which cost approximately $4,300, is a temporary solution and that "connection to Basehor is the only viable permanent option."

Van Parys asked those present at Monday's meeting to consider how to connect with Basehor "without having another Sewer District No. 7 issue come up."

Compounding the issue is the proposed school bond issue in Basehor up for voter approval in October. If approved, the bond issue would support a new middle school, intermediate school and an addition to Glenwood Ridge Elementary, including six new classrooms and restrooms.

Inevitably, sewer lines would need to be tied to the school, Slaugh said Wednesday.

"This is something that affects the city, county and school district. ... KDHE is on us saying we need to fix (Sewer District No. 3), and we will," Tellefson said, "... But we can't let the schools grow if we're already over capacity."

Regional district proposed

Those present struggled to find a tenable solution Monday, although several ideas were tossed around.

"My feeling is that this is a regional problem," Basehor City Councilman Jim Washington said. "We need a large, regional sewer district. ... We (Basehor) aren't big enough to be able to take these things on in a piecemeal fashion."

Tellefson and Van Parys supported the idea of a regional sewer district, and County Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn said that idea is already part of the county comprehensive land use plan.

"(The comprehensive plan) allows us to get things in place so it fits right into what you (Basehor) want," Tellefson added.

Dunn also referenced the concept of an interlocal agreement, where the county could lend some of its authority to the city for areas outside of Basehor city limits but with liability issues in the hands of the city.

No formal action was taken Monday in regard to sewers, but officials said they hoped to make a determination in the coming months.

Traffic issues

Also in the meeting, Basehor officials requested the county's support in keeping a traffic signal at 155th Street.

Under the U.S. Highway 24-40 Corridor Study, conducted by local municipalities, the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Mid-America Regional Council, a recommendation to move the signal to 158th Street was presented.

Basehor City Council President Terry Thomas emphasized the need for county backing to keep the stoplight at its current location.

Slaugh also requested the county increase building inspections "that would match better with all growth plans."

"It wouldn't take that much for the county to implement building inspections," he said.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber argued that the county does not have a staff capable to do that for all municipalities in the county.

Dunn told Slaugh that building inspections are usually subcontracted through city building inspection subdivisions.

Although no action was taken Monday, Basehor and Leavenworth County officials agreed that progress had been made.

"This is a good start," Garcia said. "It's been a while since we've sat down together."

"Leavenworth County and the city of Basehor have mutual interests here," Van Parys said. "The bottom line is we're all public servants here; this is all in the public interest."

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