Residents question city’s sewer intentions
In the middle of what has seemingly become an endless battle, Glenwood Estates residents are speaking out about the Sewer District 3 lagoon decommissioning.
The Basehor City Council approved at its Nov. 16 meeting to offer Glenwood homeowners a reduced flat rate of $2,000 per lot to join the city’s sewer system when their current lagoons have been decommissioned. However, the lower price would only go into effect if the subdivision had 100 percent of the 97 homes agreeing to voluntarily annex into the city by March 1.
During City Administrator Mark Loughry’s report at the March 15 council meeting, he announced the city had only received seven forms back from its attempt to acquire a 100 percent voluntary annexation. The city prepared agreements for the 97 lots, and having only received seven back, residents are now faced with paying the full connection fee of $4,425 per lot, as established in an interlocal agreement drafted in January between the city and Leavenworth County.
Some Glenwood residents say the subdivision never had a chance to receive this lower connection rate because homeowners did not receive the forms from the city.
“The city only got seven forms back, well, that’s because we didn’t get those forms, and we only had three days notice to reply,” resident Angie Payne said. “And 100 percent? I think that’s a totally unrealistic goal. I don’t think they ever expected to get 100 percent.”
The three days notice Payne referred to was a Glenwood Estates meeting called by the homeowners association at the end of February to discuss the city’s offer. Payne said the meeting was too late, and the city should have mailed the forms to each house to ensure everyone knew about the possible reduced fee.
Loughry said distribution of the forms was decided by the homeowners association.
“We had a meeting with (Leavenworth County Commissioner and Sewer District 3 chairman) John Flower, the county attorney and the homeowners association after the November meeting,” Loughry said. “During this meeting, it was decided the best way to distribute the forms was through the homeowners association. They thought it would be better coming from someone the residents knew, rather than a form mailed by the city. We would have been more than happy to mail them, but there’s only so much you can say in a letter, and they thought a meeting would be better.”
As for the condition of a 100 percent participation, Loughry said he personally believed the council would have taken into consideration any strong response from the residents of the subdivision.
“We haven’t seen any residents at the city council meetings, we haven’t received phone calls, we haven’t had a response from them,” Loughry said. “I really think the council would have looked at (a lower connection fee) again if we had any kind of response, but seven forms? To me, that says we’re not interested in being annexed at all.”
In the next five to 10 years, Loughry said Glenwood Estates will likely be involuntarily annexed into the city in accordance with city policies concerning use of its wastewater treatment plant. Subdivision residents are well aware of this fate and say it’s unfair for the city to charge a much higher connection rate then push for an annexation.
“We’ve been told over and over we’re going to be annexed,” Payne said. “So, you’ll first charge us the $4,425 for an out-of-city connection fee, then annex us so we don’t have the opportunity to receive the ($3,200) in-city rate?”
Loughry, who recommended March 15 the council approve an in-city connection fee for Sewer District 3 residents, said he understood that particular frustration.
“We do still have the possibility of a rebate after the subdivision is annexed,” Loughry said. “Meaning, we’d give them back the amount over the in-city rate. But I can see why Glenwood Estates residents would be skeptical. They don’t know if we’ll still have the same city council or the same city administrator at that time. I can tell them all I want the city isn’t going to turn around and annex them right after we collect, but that’s my word.”
The council’s decision to stay with the high connection fee is not the end of the city’s discussions with Glenwood about mitigating some of the cost of this project, Loughry said. He said the city, however, does have a primary responsibility to its current residents who will pay for the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.
“This doesn’t mean the city isn’t open to something,” Loughry said. “I really think if they came in tomorrow with their 100 percent annexation, if they came in in two weeks with it, the council would consider that. But we have to think about Basehor residents and the costs they’re faced with.”
Glenwood resident LeRoy Scharnhorst says he has had numerous concerns and frustrations throughout the years-long life of the sewer project. But at this point, he just wants some straight answers from both the city and the county.
“Let’s just get this done and get some numbers and stick to it,” Scharnhorst said. “We’re all just tired of hearing or reading something new all the time. When you figure up the $2,000 difference in connection fees, that’s about $11 a month. That’s how much we’re fighting over. Just tell me how much it’s going to cost, and let’s be done with it.”
The city council will again discuss the Glenwood Estates sewer lagoons issue at its next work session, 7 p.m. April 5 at Basehor City Hall.