GIRARD — The annexation of Sugar Creek Packing from Frontenac to Pittsburg has been a hot button topic since it was suggested by Sugar Creek last year. However, the Crawford County Commission heard a possible solution to the problem at their scheduled meeting Friday.
The commission heard from representatives from both cities, as well as Sugar Creek, in regards to a wastewater solution that would allow Sugar Creek to remain part of Frontenac. The solution will also solve some looming issues for both cities in regards to upcoming government regulations on the disposal of wastewater.
The representatives suggested to the commission that a study be done to look at the feasibility of building a regional wastewater management system, instead of individual ones in each town.
Frontenac Mayor Linda Grilz said that this is an important step before any decisions could be made on how to handle the situation.
“Until you can study the problem, how can you decide what the answer is?” Grilz said. “So we really need to look at this carefully and see what we can do.”
State Representative Adam Lusker, spoke to the commission about his part in the process as well, explaining he stepped in to try and bring both parties to the table to find a joint solution that benefited everyone, and protected the best interest of the individual communities around Pittsburg and Frontenac.
“I represent everyone outside of Pittsburg, so it was important to me that this solution allows communities to keep their city services as well as their individuality,” Lusker said. “The Department of Ag. helped us make some progress with facilitating some meetings and helping us look at funding options for the future.”
The future is what had the attention of both Frontenac City Manager Brad Reams and Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall, both expressed that a better wastewater option would attract businesses who require more advanced sewer options.
Reached via email for comment, Reams noted that changes in government requirements for wastewater are forthcoming, so new options have to be explored no matter which direction the study showed would be best.
“Participating in this study strengthens the ability for the governing body to make sound decisions related to the future of Frontenac,” Reams said. “Decisions won't be made off of invalid information or through personal opinion of unqualified individuals.”
Hall agreed with Reams, explaining that the study would be a good way to move forward.
“This is a good opportunity to get things right,” Hall said. “My concern for Pittsburg, as our population grows, how do we attract more businesses.”
Commenting via email Hall expanded on his comments, noting that Pittsburg is very positive about a regional wastewater concept.
“Pittsburg is excited to work with Frontenac, and Crawford County and any other interested jurisdiction to study the concept of regional wastewater management on behalf of Sugar Creek, all of our residents and economic development in southeast Kansas,” Hall said.
Also mentioned in the meeting was that funding assistance for the study would be available, making it an opportune time to go forward. Approximately 80 percent of the funding would be covered by government programs, allowing the cities to not shoulder the majority of the burden.
Reams, reached following the meeting via email, said that the funding options make the decision to move forward now a good one.
“Opportunities to study issues of this magnitude at a discounted rates don't come along very often,” Reams said. “KDHE has recognized the communities in the county want to work together to address an important environmental topic and they have provided us the financial support to make it happen.
This study is an important step for our community and the county to correctly configuring the infrastructure necessary for a thriving business and residential environment.”
The commissioners were positive about the study, although Woods expressed concerns about rural individuals being forced to leave their septic tanks to go onto a combined wastewater system.
Representatives assured the commission that this was a solution for the towns, not something that would be forced on rural residents. Hall said that the study would not be setting the scope of work, and that Woods would be able to review the scope of work the study found, before they moved forward with the project. Woods said he was supportive of the study, provided it was not in the plans to require rural residents to leave their existing sewer system.
In his email Reams restated that rural customers would not be the focus of the project.
“This has never been included in the conversations by any party,” Reams said. “The conversation has focused upon serving the cities' residential and business users. I don't see these single users being included in the final product.”
Moody asked Sugar Creek representative Michael Richardson if this would clear up the annexation issue. Richardson confirmed that it would, and that Sugar Creek values its relationship with the area.
The commissioners moved to support the city’s continuing with the study.