When they met Thursday, Leavenworth County commissioners rescinded an earlier vote that would have contributed $10,000 to reduce the 2018 assessments for residents of Sewer District No. 3.

When they met Thursday, Leavenworth County commissioners rescinded an earlier vote that would have contributed $10,000 to reduce the 2018 assessments for residents of Sewer District No. 3.

Residents in Sewer District No. 3, which includes Glenwood Estates near Basehor, are charged assessments each year to pay off a $1.13 million loan that was used to pay for the transition from a lagoon system to the Basehor sewer system. The lagoon system was ordered closed by the state.

The 20-year loan is scheduled to be paid off in 2031.

Without the $10,000 contribution rescinded, property owners in the district will be charged $716.45 per connection next year for their share of the debt service.

Most lots also will be each assessed $284 for sewer system operation and maintenance fees requested by the city of Basehor.

The county government previously paid $20,000 per year for three years to help reduce the annual assessment charged to residents of the Sewer District No. 3. But such a contribution has not been made for the last couple of years.

Commissioners voted 2-0 last month to make the $10,000 contribution to reduce the debt assessments for next year. Commissioner Bob Holland was absent at the time of last month’s vote.

Because the contribution would have changed the annual assessments, the County Commission was required to conduct a public hearing on the issue. That hearing took place Thursday.

Interim County Counselor David Van Parys reviewed opinions issued by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

Based on these opinions, Van Parys said any continued or additional use of county economic development funds for Sewer District No. 3 would be inappropriate unless there are blight conditions in the district.

“There’s no finding that there’s a blight situation in the area,” he said.

Commission Chairman Doug Smith said residents of Sewer District No. 3 are paying for an upsize of a sewer line to accommodate future growth. He said the residents will not be able to recoup their money once growth occurs.

Residents of Sewer District No. 3 have argued the county government, city of Basehor and Basehor-Linwood school district each were supposed to have contributed $200,000 when the district switched to the city sewer system. The school district paid $200,000. The other entities did not but the county provided some in-kind services to decommission the lagoon as well as the three annual contributions of $20,000.

Holland said there never was a signed agreement between the three entities regarding the payment of the money.

Holland said he found a County Commission resolution from 2011 indicating a $20,000 payment made at that time was considered a one-time contribution.

Larry Van Fleet, who lives in Sewer District No. 3, argued he would like for commissioners to review how debt payments are assessed if they are not going to contribute $10,000 for next year.

Van Fleet said the sewer line for the district was designed to serve 225 properties. Currently, there are only 98 properties connected to the line.

Van Fleet argued that his home should be assessed as one of 225 properties instead of one of 98. He said the county also could assess properties based on square footage.

He also suggested that the county should use sales tax revenue to create an incentive for additional development in the district. The newly developed lots would help reduce the assessment for individual properties.

“I believe we’re being unfairly treated,” said Gary Umscheid, who also lives in Sewer District No. 3.

Umscheid said he liked the idea of dividing up debt payments based on 225 properties instead of only 98 connections.

He also questioned why property owners cannot be charged based on usage instead of connections.

Mike Boyd, a representative of the Basehor-Linwood school district, expressed concern about changing the way properties are assessed for debt payments.

“We made the $200,000 contribution in 2011,” he said.

He argued the district agreed to the existing arrangement when paying the contribution.

Former County Commissioner Don Navinsky also spoke during the public hearing. Navinsky lives in rural Easton and not in Sewer District No. 3.

He expressed opposition to the county providing money to help reduce assessments for residents of Sewer District No. 3. He argued that taxpayers from the rest of the county should not have to pay for the sewer district.

Holland made the motion to rescind last month’s vote to make the $10,000 contribution to Sewer District No. 3.

Clyde Graeber seconded the motion but expressed a willingness to re-examine how the debt payments are assessed.

The motion passed 2-1 with Smith voting against it.

Smith said after the vote that he would be interested in looking at different scenarios for assessing the debt.

“We’ve looked at every option,” Van Parys said.

He said another solution to the issue will have to come from the state level. He said county officials will look at any change in state law that may provide the opportunity for additional relief.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said the issue was resolved several years ago when commissioners chose to assess based on connections.

“It was resolved whether we like the way it was resolved or not,” he said.

He said commissioners chose the option they felt was the most equitable at the time.

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