With the new middle school, changes are being made in water service in that area. Those changes are causing some concern for Rural Water District No. 3, which services that area.
Because of the needs of the new middle school and the annexation of that land by the city of El Dorado, the city will be serving them with water. Previously the area was served by RWD No. 3.
"We have been trying to negotiate with the city the last nine months and we have had one meeting with Herb (Llewellyn, city manager) and his constituents where we have offered probably a half dozen different proposals for him," said Bruce McCabe, chair of the RWD No. 3 board. "The only thing we have gotten back is we will give you $5,000 for the pipe under the road, otherwise you guys are crazy. That is not helping our talking back and forth between the city and water districts as far as making good transitions on deals."
He said the city was involved in creating the guidelines for transfer of land between cities and water districts.
"None of this has really been followed," McCabe said. "We should have had this settled. At the rate we're going, it's probably going to be in court. I would hope that you guys would try to put some pressure and have some meaningful negotiations with the water district and usage and infrastructure down there now."
McCabe has talked with the Kansas Rural Water Association in Topeka and he said he had some information to pass on to the city commission.
"The rural water districts have no tax base, receive no federal or state funding," he said.
He said they borrow money from the USDA when needed and repay the debt with the monthly minimum charge to their customers. The maintenance and repairs are supposed to be paid only with the cost per 1,000 gallons, but he said that is not the case anymore.
"Our water district is having to use our base rate to keep everything in the black so far," he said. "I know your rate for the city is $1.68 per thousand. Our customers pay $6.50 now."
Mayor Mike Fagg said he would like to have the information McCabe had in writing so they could review it.
Llewellyn also pointed out Kurt Bookout, public utilities director, has had several conversations with the KRWA.
In regards to the insinuation the city was being punitive to the water districts, Llewellyn pointed out in the last 22 years they have always charged people outside the city more for water.
"Kurt and I have tried to get rid of all of the two-times (the amount) contracts," Llewellyn said. "We haven't been successful yet. The insinuation we are being punitive is just that, it is insinuation. It doesn't have any fact to base it on."
Page 2 of 3 - Bookout also emphasized they have always had a good relationship with the rural water districts.
"This problem arose because the school district asked us to annex the land north of town," Bookout said. "They wanted good flow; something the rural water district couldn't provide. We did that."
He said the city engineer went to the first meeting with the rural water district to let them know they were prepared to extend a water line and returned when their attendance was requested.
Bookout said he asked the KRWA president what was fair, and he was told, "As long as you're annexing a territory, you can serve it. You don't have to ask."
"They didn't have the infrastructure to serve that middle school, and we didn't annex it, it was requested to be annexed," Bookout continued. "We attended two other meetings with the rural water districts.
He said one of the primary concerns for the city and a rural water district is what is in the best interest of the customers.
"He (the KRWA president) emphasized rural water districts were created to serve farmers with good water who didn't have it," Bookout said. "It is not designed to serve high density subdivisions. He said rural water districts need to keep that in mind as cities grow and there are territory disputes."
Llewellyn also pointed out the process was not done in a vacuum. He said the commission was made aware of the offers and discussed it in executive session.
"I would like to see you, Herb, and Kurt and Rural Water District 3 and maybe the KRWA president be here and have a good discussion," Fagg said. "I think we need to keep talking until we understand each other thoroughly."
McCabe thought that was a good idea.
Llewellyn said he would look back and see what the commission had agreed to when they talked about the issue.
"I think we ought to get into some discussion and get the ball rolling," agreed Commissioner David Chapin. "We've got to end it somewhere whether in a mutual agreement or court. It doesn't hurt to talk, talk is cheap."
Commissioner Bill Young was concerned about the discussion going any further in the open meeting.
"I think we were sent a proposal from the Rural Water District 3 attorney," he said. "We reviewed it in executive session. If we are going to continue we need to adjourn into executive session to discuss it. It is a legal issue to be discussed in executive and not something we should be talking about out here."
Llewellyn pointed out since they have been told this case may end up in court that is always a protected discussion to have in executive session.
Page 3 of 3 - Fagg said he would like to look at the information McCabe had presented then hold an executive session later.
"The conversation has gone as far as it needs to on camera now," Young said. "I feel like the discussion in regards to the middle school and pipeline needs to be continued in executive session, just not out here."
The commission will continue the discussion at a later date in executive session.
Julie Clements can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.