Archive for Friday, October 21, 2011

Sewer district residents make final plea for lower assessments

Richard Valenta, a resident of Leavenworth County Sewer District No. 3, speaks to Leavenworth County Commissioners Thursday at an informational meeting at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.

Richard Valenta, a resident of Leavenworth County Sewer District No. 3, speaks to Leavenworth County Commissioners Thursday at an informational meeting at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.

October 21, 2011

Coming up

10 a.m. Monday, Leavenworth County Courthouse: Final public hearing to consider assessments for sewer district residents

Leavenworth County Sewer District No. 3 residents Thursday night shared their frustration with county commissioners about the impending cost of a state-mandated sewer project that residents said places an unfair burden on their shoulders.

During a public meeting at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School punctuated by raised voices and applause, residents said that the county commissioners, as the governing board of the sewer district, had not done enough to protect the residents' interests.

“I feel betrayed,” sewer district resident Joan Robinson said. “I feel swindled.”

The properties in the sewer district have been connected to the city of Basehor's sewer system since April. On Monday county commissioners must set the first year's worth of property tax assessments that will pay back a Kansas Department of Health and Environment loan for the state-ordered elimination of the district's lagoons and connection to the Basehor wastewater treatment plant.

Thursday's public meeting, County Counselor David Van Parys said, was meant to provide information and a chance for public comment for residents who would be unable to attend the formal assessment hearing 10 a.m. Monday at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

All three county commissioners attended the meeting Thursday, and about 40 people sat in the audience.

Several residents told the commissioners they felt it was unjust for the 98 properties in the sewer district south of Basehor — 96 residences and two Basehor-Linwood schools — to pay for a sewer connection that was built to serve up to 225 residences, allowing for future growth.

Van Parys told people attending the meeting that if future residences were built on undeveloped land nearby and connected to the district's system, those property owners would shoulder a portion of the assessment in future years, decreasing each property's individual bill. But some residents at the meeting said that possibility was not enough to make things fair.

“We want a completely different formula so we're not paying up front for future connections,” resident Monica Swinford said.

A proposed resolution published by the county commission earlier this month would leave each property owner with an assessment of nearly $20,000 to be paid over 20 years. Commissioner John Flower, though, said that amount would likely decrease, as Basehor-Linwood Superintendent David Howard sent the commissioners a letter Wednesday confirming the school board planned to contribute $200,000 of the project's cost up front, as long as the current allocation formula remains the same. That proposed formula would divide the assessments evenly among the 98 properties connected to the sewer district's system.

Resident Bob Vervaecke stood up to recognize the school district for staying committed to that contribution throughout the discussion of the project, which has lasted several years.

“Thank you for sticking to that and paying your fair share,” Vervaecke said, eliciting applause from the audience.

Several audience members asked the county commissioners why the county was not also planning to contribute $200,000 to the cost, as commissioners discussed during work sessions regarding the sewer district in 2009. Van Parys said state statutes prevented the county from contributing general funds to improvements for a sewer district, although the county was awaiting an opinion from the state attorney general's office regarding a mechanism called a revitalization district that might allow the county to chip in.

Flower, who represents the southern part of the county, said he would continue to push the other two commissioners to help alleviate the cost for sewer district residents.

“We will prevail sooner or later,” Flower said.

The other commissioners, Clyde Graeber and Bob Holland, both said they would not make a decision about whether to contribute general funds until they heard back from the attorney general.

Graeber told the residents that Flower had never stopped fighting for their interests.

“This man has never let you down,” Graeber said. “He has stood his ground. He has pushed for the positions you want.”

For more on the assessments for Sewer District No. 3, see the online and print editions of the Sentinel next week.

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