Butler County Times Gazette
  • New water line puts damper on hotel plans

  • The main project facing the Augusta City Council was how to finance a possible 12-inch waterline that would complete a circuit along 7th Street on the city’s west side
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  • Augusta’s City Council had another lengthy meeting Monday night with the governing body deciding policy until well after 10 p.m.
    Several of the issues on the agenda revolved around a section of waterline that will be added to the city’s system and how that addition will be funded.
    The main project facing the governing body was how to finance a possible 12-inch waterline that would complete a circuit along 7th Street on the city’s west side.
    City Manger Josh Shaw told the council completing this project would give the city a shovel ready corridor for projects like the Best Western Plus hotel project that is proposed in the area but also for any further development in the area.
    The problem first became obvious when the new Walmart was under construction and the business was forced to build a huge water tank to have enough flow for possible fire suppression needs. If the city had worked with the company, a cost sharing agreement could have helped both parties but that did not come to fruition.
    Like Walmart, any sizeable development in the area will require an additional water source for fire suppression.
    Shaw said the current flow is so low if a hydrant is opened in the area, residents and businesses in the area could be completely without water until the hydrant is shut off.
    In addition to solving current water volume issues, any development to the west of the City Lake or west of the Whitewater River would be impossible without completing the project.
    The project is expected to cost about $600,000.
    Bond counsel Kevin Cowan told the council the best way to fund this project would be to amend the temporary financing agreement the city put into place last year and use some of the proceeds from the 1-cent sales tax for water projects. Currently, about $5 million is available in the fund.
    Shaw and Cowan agreed using these funds to complete a project like this might cause the city to complete its permanent funding agreement for the new El Dorado waterline a couple of months earlier than anticipated. But neither expected any negative repercussions for the city, especially compared to the benefits to area residents and businesses and potential development in the area.
    City Engineer Larry Henry said the timeline to finish the project was bid letting in July and project completion by the end of the year. He said the timeline was being driven by the proposed hotel project and also the upcoming KDOT highway repaving plans for two sections of 7th Street in that area.
    Neither city staff nor KDOT would approve of cutting waterlines across newly paved highway.
    Page 2 of 2 - But everyone isn’t excited about the new waterline project to support the hotel and other development in the area.
    Local developer Tim Johnson recently let his contract on the old Emprise Bank building in downtown Augusta expire. Johnson had planned to purchase the former bank building and renovate it into a 32-room boutique hotel.
    Johnson had even received planning commission approval in Augusta for a conditional use permit for the building.
    But even though he maintains his plans for the project, the city’s decision to pursue this project to support the new hotel project put a damper on those plans.
    “I continue to spend time and money on this project because it’s a good project,” Johnson said. “My risk profile changed in terms of buying the building when it appeared the city was putting in a water line for the other project. I’m not sure I can stomach investing to build a hotel and being compelled to invest as a citizen my pro-rata share of a waterline for a competitor.”
    Johnson has spoken out against the package of financial considerations the city is allowing the developers of the national chain hotel in the 7th Street corridor.
    He has said he wouldn’t seek incentives for his project. This move doesn’t mean his project is dead by any means. But Johnson is waiting to see what effects these new actions by the city will have before investing more money into his downtown hotel venture.
     
    Kent Bush can be reached at kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com.

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