Pottawatomie County commissioners hope to know this week which direction Rural Water District 1 takes for meeting the growing water needs of Blue Township in the southwest portion of the county.
“There will be a decision tomorrow,” David Hull, chairman of RWD 1, assured commissioners. “Our goal right now is to maintain water. That’s our sole objective.”
Hull and several other board members, as well as district manager David Stauffer, discussed the issue with commissioners Monday morning.
With rapid growth in the area, coupled with months of severe drought, officials are scrambling to lock up an additional water source before residential and commercial development is jeopardized.
That water source is the city of Manhattan. The only issue yet unresolved is who is RWD 1 going to negotiate with––directly with the city of Manhattan or through Pottawatomie County and the county-owned Timber Creek Water District.
“The growth of Pottawatomie County is in your hands, but we’re being blamed for the restrictions on it (water),” Commissioner Stan Hartwich told water board members. “I will support any decision you make, I just ask that you make one in a timely fashion.”
Earlier in the meeting, County Counselor John Watt cautioned commissioners about negotiating with the water district since RWD 1 has already opened negotiations directly with Manhattan and since the majority of Blue Township is in the water district’s service area.
“I don’t believe you can be negotiating with Rural Water District 1 while they’re negotiating with the city of Manhattan,” Watt said. He referenced a recent letter sent to the county by Stauffer, seeking the county’s involvement in the negotiating process.
“It’s simply nuts to be proceeding in that manner,” Watt said. “It appears the district wants the best of both worlds and play both sides. It can’t happen that way. The district needs to understand they need to make a decision. ”
The RWD 1 Board has two options, according to Watt: either decide to negotiate directly with Manhattan or with Pott County. If the water board chooses Manhattan, the county has no say in the matter, he said. If it chooses Pott County, the county would, in turn, negotiate with Manhattan through the Timber Creek Water District. That option would likely include the county asking RWD 1 to relinquish some of its service territory in Blue Township.
“If the district decides they want to deal with the county, it seems to me they should cease negotiations with the city (of Manhattan),” Watt said. “That’s the law. That’s the way it will work. Once they make a decision which way they’re going, everything will flow.”
The Rural Water District 1 Board was scheduled to meet Tuesday night and Hull said a decision on the issue would be forthcoming.
“It’s time to make a decision and figure out who’s going to be part of this,” said Commission Chairman Pat Weixelman. “We’re the ones who will ultimately be answering to developers a year or so down the road if the water’s not there. I’m okay with whatever decision you make…just make it.”
Commissioner Gary Yenzer agreed: “That’s what we’ve been asking for, that vote you need to make.”