Archive for Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Annexations won’t require line purchase

August 25, 2004

With Suburban Water of Basehor building a water line around the south side of Tonganoxie, a question arises: What would happen if eventually the city annexed land where Suburban already is providing water.

According to Tonganoxie City Attorney Mike Kelly, it's possible that nothing would happen.

"Just because the city annexes ground doesn't mean they're going to take the pipeline system," Kelly said.

"The city could decide to not take anything, or they could set up their own lines. They would not have to use Basehor's water system."

Or, Kelly said, the city could opt to buy Suburban's lines.

"Right now we're supplying water to everybody in the city limits," Kelly said. "If we were to take over ground in which Suburban Water has their system, the city council would have a decision to make on whether to try and take over that section and either negotiate a purchase with the water supplier or to go through the eminent domain process to take the assets, which in this case would be the pipeline."

Linda Bohnsack, a planner in the county's department of planning and zoning, said a rural water district or any other water district could operate within the city limits.

"The city would have to work it out," Bohnsack said.

Kelly said there are specific state laws that regulate and protect rural water districts. But these laws don't apply to commercial water wholesalers, such as Suburban.

Ray Breuer, owner of Suburban Water, said he's aware of the possible actions the city could take in the event it were to annex land on which he has existing water service. There's eminent domain, he said, and there's compromise.

According to Breuer, Suburban has a franchise on serving the area south of Tonganoxie.

"The Kansas Corporation Commission gives us this area -- franchises us to this area to serve," Breuer said.

So, if future annexations take in Suburban's area, Breuer said he'd prefer to work something out to provide water to city residents, rather than to sell his lines to the city.

"We could continue to serve the area," Breuer said. "... We would pay a franchise fee to the city and then we could give them 5 percent of the retail sales on each meter. That's the way we work in Basehor."

Suburban provides water to about 50 homes in Basehor, Breuer said.

"It's a nice little gain for the city when they do that," Breuer said. "They don't do anything for that money, and they get a little money for it, so it works out real nice."

However, Breuer said, if the city were to exercise eminent domain to obtain Suburban's infrastructure, the cost could be high.

"That line that they would want to take could be a main feed line for other parts of our system," Breuer said. "... That would just be so expensive it would be prohibitive for them to do.

And, he said, Suburban plans early next year to build a 1.5 million gallon water-storage tank on a hilltop about a half-mile south of the city limits. This tank will be used to serve Suburban's customers in southern Leavenworth County, as well as in the western part of the county. Breuer said Suburban is posed to sell water to Rural Water District 6, which is about five miles northwest of Tonganoxie.

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