County to apply for USDA grant to fix sewer system

By Brady Bauman

Riley County commissioners approved the submission of a USDA Rural Development Grant application to help repair the ailing sewer system in University Park Thursday morning.

The grant, if received, would pay for 45 percent of the cost of the system, which is leaking sewage - potentially in Tuttle Creek Lake.

Leon Hobson, the county engineer and public works director, said the construction costs are estimated to run at $4.2 million.

University Park is a small community west of Riley right by the waters of Tuttle Creek Lake. Chairman Bob Boyd said it was originally built in the early 1960s after the dam was put in and set up for Kansas State University professors and other faculty to have weekend cabins.

At the time it was restricted to that demographic, but not many of them bought cabins and instead lower-income buyers took advantage of the cheaper prices.

Last year during a sewer system check, it was discovered there are cracks in the system and that sewage is leaking into what Boyd called “public ground.”

Neither Boyd nor Hobson was sure, though, if the sewage was finding its way into the lake.

“We have some cracks and some breaks, and it’s going into the ground,” Hobson said. “We don’t know what’s happening underground, but now it’s just a matter of fixing it.”

Boyd said the construction of the sewer system predated more modern systems that use PVC pipe. The University Park system uses clay tile and the area, which is very hilly and full of limestone and shale, has shifted over time. Not surprisingly, the aging system has deteriorated.

“It’s a mess out there,” Boyd said.

County counselor Clancy Holeman called county’s offer to the community - especially if the grant is obtained - the “deal of the century.”

“We’d finance it,” Boyd said. “And (University Park) would reimburse us. Leon and his crew has worked some great grants, otherwise they’d be on the hook for the whole thing.”

Boyd continued that it was important for the county to take action on the system before it was left to other, higher-ranking government agencies, got involved.

“We want to get to it and solve the issue before any kind of order comes from one of the environmental regulating agencies,” he said. “The KDHE (Kansas Department of Health & Environment) has been real good with us, allowing us to do that.

“We’re taking a pro-active approach to it, like government should. And we’re assisting people who are ill-equipped to do it (themselves).”

Of course, University Park will have to accept the county’s assistance, before any repairs are made.

“We need 51 percent of the property owners to approve it,” Boyd said. “And we think we’ll get that, or, at least we hope so.”

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