Archive for Wednesday, May 11, 2005

City, district debate who pays for infrastructure

May 11, 2005

Here's the scoop.

The school district, which plans to build a new middle school on the district's 80 acres, will need more water than what's currently available.

Legally, for fire protection, said Tonganoxie's city engineer Brian Kingsley, the school has to be able to supply 1,500 gallons a minute for two hours.

"In addition to that, they're wanting 200 gallons a minute to run the school," he said. "If we put an additional 200 gallons demand in that area, then pressures will fluctuate even more than they are already."

The school district's property, where the middle school will be built, is just southeast of the intersection of Pleasant and Washington streets.

At a school/city workshop last week, officials debated how to provide additional water for the school.

According to a May 2 proposal, the school asked the city to contribute $525,000 for construction of a 300,000-gallon water tower on the 80 acres. This is the total estimated cost of constructing the water tower and booster station.

The school district, because it would be donating 1.66 acres of land which the district said would be valued at $304,150, would not pay anything for the water tower, according to the proposal.

Dissenting opinions

Council member Ron Cranor said it was unfair of the school district to ask for a $304,150 credit for the 1.66-acre-parcel of land where the tower would be built. Cranor noted the school district paid $210,000 for the entire 80 acres.

Cranor referred to the school's proposal as a "shell game."

"I don't like a gun stuck to my head," Cranor said. "I don't think the city of Tonganoxie taxpayers need to bear the burden of $550,000 to put up a tower."

Benefit to the city

Council member Steve Gumm said the city will benefit from having a new school.

"Obviously this is going to be one of the best things that has ever happened in Tonganoxie," Gumm said.

But he said he questioned why city residents should have to pay for the water tower.

"I believe we're going to have some irritated people in Tonganoxie if we raise the mill levies for this when it's not shared proportionately by the people in the county (school district) also," Gumm said.

Determining the value

Council member Velda Roberts asked how the school determined that 1.66 acres would be worth more than $300,000.

Andy Andersen, an architect with DLR Group, said the amount was based on the value of improved property.

But Steve Gumm said the total amount, $304,000 seemed high.

"That's $4.21 a square foot," said Gumm. "From my experience I haven't seen anything get close to $4.21 a square foot."

Water needs

Cranor said the south part of Tonganoxie has water pressure problems. But, he said, it wasn't something that had to be fixed at this time.

"The school needs a water tower," Cranor said. "We don't need a water tower."

He stressed that the city of Tonganoxie taxpayers shouldn't be responsible for paying for a water tower for the school.

"The school district is more than the city of Tonganoxie, it encompasses quite an area and I don't know why there weren't previous negotiations so that the entire school district should pay some of this," Cranor said.

And then he mentioned another option.

"Suburban's running a line right down through there," Cranor said.

Last fall, the city council turned down an offer by Suburban Water to supply the city's additional water needs. Instead the city council voted to build a water line from the Board of Public Utilities of Kansas City, Kansas's hookup near Basehor. It's a $2.6 million project that will supplement Tonganoxie's wells and provide ample water for the city's needs. The city is in the process of obtaining right of way rights for the 10-mile water supply line.

Suburban sprawl

Andy Anderson, of the DLR Group, said the school had looked into the possibility of hooking in with Suburban's water line, which also connects to a BPU line near Basehor. The school could hook into the line at Rogers Road, about one-half mile to the east.

The cost to the school of running a pipeline there would be about $150,000 to $180,000, Andersen said.

"If we're forced to go that way, the most cost effective solution for the district would be to build tanks on site and provide storage, that would be about the same price as hooking into Suburban," Andersen said.

Andersen was referring to the possible installation of underground water storage tanks that would hold water for fire purposes, not for the school's everyday use.

Erickson asked if it would be more cost effective for the city and the school district if the school district would contract for water with Suburban.

"We've got to think about our taxpayers and our water users in the city," Erickson said. "Is Suburban a more cost effective means at this time?"

Despite his earlier comment about using Suburban, Cranor said he would not be in favor of allowing the school district to obtain their water from Basehor's Suburban Water.

"I'm not advocating that issue," Cranor said. "I brought that up as an alternative issue. But I'm saying that the school district as a whole has a much broader taxing district than we do."

And council member Jason Ward cautioned about letting an outside water distributor supply water to the school.

"If we do that, then how are we segregating our future development and our water sources," Ward said. "That is something we would have to think long and hard about."

Velda Roberts asked what alternatives are available.

"Ideally, there would have been enough money from the bond issue for the school to cover the costs," Roberts said, adding, "But there isn't."

Tonganoxie City Adminis-trator Mike Yanez said it was likely another school and city workshop would have to be held to hammer out the details. A proposal regarding the city's costs could be voted on at a regular city council meeting.

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