new waterline puts rural water districts in predictation
With the completion of the line supplying Tonganoxie water from the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, the city has to decide how good a neighbor it wants to be to its former water partners.
Tonganoxie was a longstanding member of Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 6 with Leavenworth County Rural Water District Nos. 6 and 9. The wholesale district had a contract to purchase water from the city of Bonner Springs at a discounted wholesale rate if it bought at least 20 million gallons of water a year.
With Tonganoxie no longer needing water from Bonner Springs with the BPU line, it is expected Bonner Springs will now charge the two water districts, which serve areas west and north of the city, its more expensive retail rate for the water they will continue to need.
Moreover, the wholesale water supply district still owes $395,000 for the water line that supplies its three members.
The private water utility Suburban Water, which serves areas to the east and south of Tonganoxie, has offered to pay $1,500 a month toward that debt with the agreement it would take ownership of the line when the debt was retired in five years and have exclusive water sales rights in the two districts and any water purchased from the city using the line.
In apprising the Tonganoxie City Council of these developments on April 25, Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez recommended the council reject the Suburban Water proposal because it would give the private utility a valuable asset for a $91,000 investment and because it would put the two rural water districts’ residents — some of whom may someday be city residents — in the position of paying future rates set by a private company rather than an elected board.
The council easily agreed with that recommendation but struggled with a separate request by the two rural water districts seen as a solution to the higher rate for Bonner Springs water. The two rural water districts are asking the city sell them 2 to 3 million gallons of water a year.
Yanez said there would be some costs to the city for engineering such a connection and installing a connection to supply the districts.
When Councilman Bill Peak asked why the city would consider the arrangement other than being a “good neighbor,” Mayor Jason Ward said that wasn’t an insignificant consideration because of the length of time the city had partnered with the rural water district in an arrangement which was often to the city’s advantage.
Continuing the partnership with the rural water districts would provide the city with a backup water source should something shut down the BPU line, Yanez said.
The council requested Yanez get an estimate of the engineering cost to make a connection with the water districts before bringing the request back to the council.