The City Commission of Arkansas City unanimously passed a resolution Dec. 6 to amend the comprehensive fee schedule.

City of Arkansas CityThe decision to do so was not reached quickly, however, due to an ongoing attempt to negotiate increased water rates for Creekstone Farms Premium Beef.

This negotiation has been in progress for several years, but no compromise could be agreed upon.

Ultimately, the commission chose to increase Creekstone’s overall water rates by 15 percent in 2017 and another 15 percent in 2018.

The numbers were dictated by the commission, rather than through negotiations.

That decision came more than two hours into the commission meeting, which included more than an hour of debate from Creekstone controller Tom Minton.

Minton said he only was asking for what was fair. The only purchaser of water affected by the top rate, due to its large consumption, would be Creekstone.

Before the commission voted on the final numbers, Commissioner Dan Jurkovich had made a motion to raise only the 2017 water rates for Creekstone by the full 38 percent proposed by the city, with the rate returning to its 2016 level in 2018.

This motion was seconded by Commissioner Karen Welch, but failed 2-3 after both Minton and City Manager Nick Hernandez balked at the idea.

Creekstone rate structure explained

Creekstone currently pays a base rate of $3,299.34 per month, for up to 2,000 gallons of water.

However, after those 2,000 gallons, the rates decrease based on how much water is consumed. The first drop is to $7.15 per thousand gallons.

After the initial 30,000 gallons, the rate drops to $5.36 per 1,000 gallons.

When Creekstone exceeds 100,000 gallons, the rate changes to $4.54 per 1,000 gallons.

At 400,000 gallons per month, the rate drops again to $3.53 per 1,000 gallons.

When Creekstone uses 3 million gallons, the rate drops to $1.53 per 1,000 gallons. This number will increase to $2.60 per 1,000 gallons in 2017 and $2.85 per thousand gallons in 2018 as a result of the City Commission’s action Dec. 6.

The same is true of the top rate, which kicks in after consumption tops 10 million gallons a month, but the 2017 increase will be smaller. It will rise to just $2, rather than the $2.70 staff had proposed, and again to $2.50 per thousand in 2018.

Creekstone currently uses an average of around 23,263,500 gallons of water per month — approximately 40 percent of the total billed water of the city — and pays about $50,000 for its water consumption each month.

If calculating to find the rate per 1,000 gallons using those final approximate figures, the rate per 1,000 gallons is around $1.93. Hernandez said the number tends to be closer to $2.17 per 1,000 gallons. This calculation is what city officials wanted to see rise to $3 per 1,000 gallons.

If Creekstone’s consumption stays steady with recent historical usage rates in 2017, that overall rate will be close to $2.52 per 1,000 gallons.

Assuming a similar trend in 2018, it would increase to $2.90 per 1,000 — still not quite what city officials were hoping for, but closer to the mark.

There already was a 2-percent increase scheduled in Creekstone’s rates in 2017 and 2018, the same as for all other users.

Senior housing project

The commissioners also approved a resolution of support for a possible senior housing development at 1402 S. Sixth St.

This resolution does not start the process of building such a development. It merely gives the developer the ability to seek tax credits from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation.

However, one citizen came to the meeting specifically to voice his opinion against such a development being built near Veterans Memorial Lake.

Charles White, who lives near the lake, said he was against the development location. “We understand the good part of it…but it’s pretty good right now,” he said.

White indicated he and his wife walk in the area often and are concerned about the potential loss of natural beauty.

“It looked like it was encroaching on the lake,” he said of the development plan.

White also said he had imagined the area might have something for veterans at some point, based on its name.

Citizens have been sharing opinions on social media since the possibility of the development coming to town was announced at a recent commission meeting.

“To me, looks like great growth to Ark City. Big step on improving south end of Ark City,” said Gary Hale. “All we need is to focus on the future. This will put something on the tax rolls in the future. This project will improve quality of life.”

“I also don’t see the problem with it. Growth and change come with time, no need to be stuck in past decades like Winfield,” said Shawn Tylor.

“The Veterans Lake was established as a public place for people to enjoy nature, and have a safe place to walk or ride bikes,” said Sheila Malone.

“I am concerned about the wildlife in the area. What about the nesting eagles? Believe me, I am all for improving the south end of town, and it sounds like a wonderful project. I just wonder when all the building and concrete comes in, will people still use it as much?”

An online poll created by an Ark City resident shows that 62 percent of those who answered are in favor of the development, while 26 percent are against it. Another 12 percent would like to see veteran housing instead.

In other business, the commission:

  • approved changes to the agenda, including moving a consent agenda to old business, re-ordering the items under new business to move up visiting speakers and adding a 15-minute executive session to discuss matters of non-elected personnel.
  • unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a contract with Professional Engineering Consultants to provide engineering design and construction administration services for the 2017 KLINK and water line replacement project on South Summit Street, for an amount not to exceed $64,100.
  • unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance adopting the budgeted pay plan for 2017 and repealing Ordinance No. 2015-12-4401.
  • unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance authorizing the vacating of a portion of the 300 block of South Seventh Street and a portion of the 700 block of West Adams Avenue, adjacent to the Cowley College softball field. The vacated portions will be added to the existing softball field property.
  • unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance modifying Article 23 of the Zoning Regulations regarding telecommunications towers, and amending Municipal Code to reflect those changes.
  • unanimously approved a recommendation of the Beautification and Tree Advisory Board to initiate an adoption contract for one year with the Early Bird Lions Club for the lion statue in Paris Park.
  • held a 15-minute executive session, with a five-minute extension, to discuss matters of non-elected personnel. No action occurred afterward.

Editor’s note: Several numbers contained in the second section of this story, “Creekstone rate structure explained,” were incorrect in the initial publication of this story. They since have been corrected by City of Arkansas City officials and that section has been revised to reflect them.