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The Shawnee News-Star
  • PCDA postpones proposal for water operations transfer

  • The Pottawatomie County Development Authority, after hitting some snags in a proposed resolution to transfer the authority’s water distribution system to the Shawnee Municipal Authority, has postponed any action as the district attorney and legal counsel are now involved in reviewing the proposal.
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  • The Pottawatomie County Development Authority, after hitting some snags in a proposed resolution to transfer the authority’s water distribution system to the Shawnee Municipal Authority, has postponed any action as the district attorney and legal counsel are now involved in reviewing the proposal.
    A special meeting of the PCDA was called for board members to consider a resolution authorizing PCDA to transfer the authority’s water distribution system to SMA, which is run by the city of Shawnee.
    As a public trust, PCDA operates a water system that services about 476 water customers, most in the Bethel Acres area, with the resolution proposing to transfer “all right, title and interest in the PCDA System” to SMA, with SMA assuming PCDA’s outstanding debt, the resolution reads. According to PCDA Chairman Dr. Joe Taron, that debt is about $500,000. Under the proposal, the SMA would have resumed responsibilities of the operation and maintenance to serve existing and future PCDA water customers.
    The board took no action on that resolution during a meeting that also was attended by two Pottawatomie County commissioners, along with Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John A. “Rocky” Barrett.
    The county commissioners, who as a board are beneficiaries of the trust, were reportedly unaware of the proposal details and aired their concerns about what was being considered. Barrett, as chairman of CPN-owned Rural Water District No. 3, made an another proposal — an offer to purchase the PCDA system.
    With the proposed resolution, Taron said the board was proceeding in the best interest of the patrons of PCDA by attempting to join SMA, which has already been managing, for a fee, the PCDA water system for the past few months.
    Taron, who said PCDA already buys Shawnee’s treated water for customers, added he thought they had communicated their intentions with county commissioners, but that wasn’t the case at the meeting, where some contentious issues were raised, he said.
    “They’re ultimately our bosses and beneficiary of the trust,” Taron said.
    In addition to commissioners being concerned, the surprise proposal from Barrett became part of the meeting.
    Barrett told the News-Star that he proposed a purchase of the PCDA water system for $850,000 — which he said was $300,000 more than the PCDA debt.
    Barrett indicated the RWD No. 3 could provide PCDA water customers with water for less than half the price they are currently paying.
    “A number of people would be well served by that,” Barrett said, adding his offer more “closely resembled the true value of the asset.”
    He said the RWD No. 3 has two water plants — one south of Dale and one north of Macomb — that are being connected and there are two places within 100 yards of PCDA lines where they could connect to that system.
    Page 2 of 3 - Barrett said he plans to submit an additional offer letter but acknowledged any such purchase would have to have support of the Pottawatomie County commissioners.
    District 1 Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis, who attended the meeting, said she didn’t know about the PCDA meeting until just beforehand. She also didn’t realize the proposed resolution involved transferring ownership of the assets to SMA, and instead was under the assumption they were only considering transferring management operations over to SMA, she said.
    “Nothing’s come before the county commission,” she said.
    When the PCDA board asked for her opinion, she said she “recommended everyone take a few steps back and not do anything right now.”
    While Dennis believes there’s been some miscommunication, she doesn’t believe the PCDA can transfer ownership of the system to SMA.
    “We’re beneficiaries of that trust too,” Dennis said. “Water is a hot commodity…I would hang onto it, keep it…we should step back and see what’s best.”
    Dennis said she's not saying PCDA shouldn’t sell, but believes everyone should look at the big picture and how to go about it.
    Taron said the intent of the resolution, if it had been approved by PCDA, was to have it go on to be considered before Pottawatomie County commissioners and then the SMA board, which is comprised of city commissioners.
    District 2 County Commissioner Randy Thomas said he believes they need to be a good steward to taxpayers, so if PCDA’s distribution asset is sold, “it needs to go to the highest bidder.”
    Thomas, who said he’s met with Taron since the Friday meeting, said it appears the PCDA will keep running the district until further research is done.
    “We need to take baby steps on this,” Thomas said. “We need to stand down — be patient.”
    Taron said PCDA lawyers and the district attorney are now looking into the matter and proposal. He isn’t sure when any action might be taken, but said this involves the distribution, water tower and pump house of PCDA assets, but has nothing to do with Wes Watkins Reservoir.
    While PCDA owns that lake, the way the debt service was set up, the city of Shawnee owns 85 percent of the water use rights and the city of Tecumseh owns 15 percent, he said, with PCDA having a guarantee in place to buy Shawnee’s water.
    Taron, rather than speculating what will happen next, said the whole situation will be better understood once legal counsel reviews everything, but added that SMA officials have invested a lot of time and effort to manage the system.
    Page 3 of 3 - For now, PCDA will continue operating as they have and pay SMA to manage the system, which includes any needed water line repairs and reading meters.
    Watch for any updates.
     
     
     

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