After an executive session two weeks ago, the Augusta City Council asked City Manager Bill Keefer and City Attorney David All to meet with their counterparts from Mulvane.
The intent of the meeting was to discuss Augusta’s contract to sell water to Mulvane.
Part of the problem with the contract is that new development in Mulvane – including the Kansas Star Casino – has significantly increased the town’s usage rates despite water restrictions that are in place.
Even with restrictions, Mulvane is using about 15 percent more water than last year. In addition, an arena and hotel project are being completed at the site. Both will likely become major users in the utility system.
The contract between the two cities does not account for what would happen if Mulvane were to exceed 200 million gallons of water per year. That scenario was almost unthinkable when the contract is written but is very likely in the current environment.
According to a city of Augusta press release, “The City manager of Augusta and the City administrator of Mulvane and the respective Attorneys for Augusta and Mulvane met for over an hour today (Thursday) to discuss the various water issues impacting these cities, including numerous contract provisions.”
The release went on to say, “In the end, it was a healthy conversation that included the potential for partnerships in the future and a brainstorming of potential joint solutions. In the short-term, Mulvane has agreed to supplement its water supply with its other resources. In the long-term, the parties agreed to meet again to discuss partnerships and solutions at the end of August.”
Those short-term solutions for Mulvane include a series of wells that the town can use to supplement its water supply. The water is hard and requires extra treatment to be usable but the city has sufficient funds to incur that cost.
Mulvane voted at the past city council meeting to lower property taxes 10 percent and utility fees 5 percent because of the financial windfall brought about by the casino.
The Augusta City Council has a special meeting set for Monday night to finalize budget discussions. Water issues are likely to be a big part of that discussion as well.