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Blue Township to get city water

By Corene Brisendine

Live outside the city and want cheaper water?

No problem: Agree to be annexed into Manhattan.

That unusual suggestion came into the spotlight Tuesday, as city commissioners were busy giving a thumbs-up to agreements that would provide water to the Blue Township growth area. Dale Houdeshell, director of public works, told commissioners that two agreements were needed to complete the project.

An initial interim agreement would supply water at a cost of two times the city’s water rate.

The second, an interlocal agreement, would supply water to Pottawatomie County Rural Water District 1 for the Blue Township and its growth area at 125 percent city water rates.

“The sooner we get up and running, the sooner the rates go back down,” said David Hull, chairman of the board of directors for the rural water district.

The interesting kicker, however, is that new customers could have an option. If they choose to connect to the city rather than the district, they could be annexed into Manhattan, said city manager Ron Fehr.

Residents in the rest of the Blue Township area would pay a higher rate, since they would be getting water from the rural water district, which purchases water from the city at a discount.

Myron Calhoun, 2001 Dunbar Road, asked commissioners how he could get water rates from the city at 125 percent instead of the 200 percent he currently pays.

Fehr said the 125 percent rate was a wholesale rate, not an end user rate for individuals outside the city.

Fehr noted that if Calhoun wanted lower water rates, he could either become a water district and sell his water to other customers, or consider being annexed into the city.

Calhoun said he reviewed his water agreement, which was set up in the 1940s and stated that he and other residents in the area would pay 200 percent of city rates unless they were willing to be annexed.

Fehr said that several residents who live on the edge of the city — but have not been annexed — pay the 200 percent rate.

As for the logistics of providing water to the Blue Township area, Houdeshell said the building project would extend Manhattan’s current water main from just east of Heritage Square to Excel Road.

The main then would turn north to Harvest Road, where a pumping station would be built and owned by the city. At the pumping station, District 1 would build a water main north to a new 1 million gallon water tower north of Mount Zion Road.

The extra money collected during the interim agreement would go toward the $281,000 initial cost of providing service to the district.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.85 million, with the city’s portion approximately $1.05 million.

Houdeshell said user fees collected from the district over the next four years would cover the entire cost of the project.

Houdeshell said the city’s biggest benefit is creating a larger customer base to absorb future rate increases.

In addition, once the project cost is paid off, the additional 25 percent rate will be profit.

Another benefit written into the agreement is that the city has a claim on any new customers along Highway 24 from the city limits to Lake Elbow Road.

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