Decatur County Rural Water learned recently of Mayor Frank Manus’s decision to cut off negotiations with Decatur County Rural Water in the same way everybody else did - through the newspaper.

The Mayor’s decision, of course, means that residents who have been pleading for months, some of them residents of the city of Greensburg, may very well have to get used to the idea that no water will be forthcoming. This decision was made with no notice to Decatur County Rural Water.

Unfortunately, we cannot say we are surprised. Rural Water has tried for years, not just months, to reach some agreement with the city on what is called the jurisdictional question - in other words, which areas are to be served by Rural Water and which areas are to be served by the city. Similarly, Rural Water told the city as far back as May 2006, that it was reaching its contract capacity in the Zone 5-Adams area.

There is a public and a private face to these negotiations. Frank Manus has repeatedly told the public that water is available. Frank Manus has publicly stated repeatedly that he will do whatever is necessary to provide the water to citizens in need. In private, he has refused to provide the water and the city has never made a single proposal to Rural Water which would secure water services to the citizens in need. Within the last month, Rural Water offered to immediately connect citizens in need. The offer, signed by the authorized negotiators for Rural Water, was published in the newspaper. Mayor Manus will not agree. This (past) week he has finally made his true position public. There will be no additional water.

Why? The answer is simple. The city wants to take over Rural Water’s service territory and receive all impact fees to be derived from any commercial business coming into the area. To achieve this end, Mayor Manus is willing to leave Zone 5-Adams residents without water.

Rural Water met with the city to negotiate these matters on Dec. 20, 2006. At that meeting, the city presented a map - a map which showed the area that the city wanted to control. It covered the entire Greensburg area, both inside and outside the city limits, and took in Rural Water’s most important lines. The city also complained that Rural Water has not previously been obliged to purchase a guaranteed minimum amount of water per month, and that Rural Water’s customers negatively impacted the city’s water plant and facilities without paying an impact fee. The Mayor also asked whether a side agreement could be reached to serve the waterless Zone 5 -Adams customers. Rural Water negotiators began to work on solutions.

At the very next meeting, held on Jan. 10, 2007, Rural Water presented a jurisdictional map which gave the city all territory north of Interstate 74, agreed to a minimum monthly purchase of 115,000 gallons per day from the city, agreed to help pay for a financial analysis to determine what that payment should be, and presented the agreement to immediately connect Zones 5 - Adams customers. Rural Water’s negotiators told Mayor Manus that their proposed map was absolutely negotiable and asked most urgently for a reply.

What did the Mayor say? He told the press that both sides were talking. He acted as though a settlement might be reached. What did he do? Nothing. There has never been apply any reply of any kind to Rural Water’s proposal. The proposal to connect the need was left without any kind of answer or proposal.

The two sides met again on Jan. 19, 2007. Rural Water expected to at least receive a reply at this meeting. The Mayor made no reply. The two sides parted with the Mayor and other city officials saying they would meet to discuss and present a counter-proposal to be made to Rural Water. The counter proposal turned out to be a decision to cut off negotiations.

Meanwhile, the people in the Zone 5 - Adams area are left with nothing. Rural Water has sufficient lines to provide additional water and serve customers. The city has the water but says specifically that it will not provide it until assurances are given that they can control the whole Zone 5 - Adams area. In other words, the people without water in the area will have to wait until every single city demand is met.

Rural Water has about a thousand customers. It maintains a few employees and owes the federal government quite a bit of money to repay loans received to start up the company and to install and maintain lines. It therefore needs to serve customers it counted on serving in order to meet the payroll and pay off the debt. If Rural Water loses customers or service territory, particularly Zone 5 - Adams area, it would force higher rates on the rest of Rural Water’s customers. Although Rural Water purchases roughly 4.2 million gallons of water per month from the city, it does not receive a wholesale rate. The Mayor’s allegation that Rural Water’s rate is “artificially high” is ridiculous. Rural Water is a not-for-profit corporation. Thus, the rate is based directly on the cost of paying the company’s overhead, paying its employees and paying for the cost of doing business, and not least upon its obligation to pay the retail water rate which Greensburg collects.

The Mayor’s comments about developers not wishing to locate in the Greensburg area because of Rural Water’s fees are equally ridiculous and misleading. For one thing, some of the people directly impacted by the Mayor’s actions in Zone 5 - Adams are developers. It appears that these developers would not have a problem connecting to Rural Water. Rural Water serves the Prairie Materials Concrete plant development in the Zone 5 area now. That is as commercial as it gets. The differences in the cost of service between the two entities are not enough to scare off development, and could likely be adjusted between the parties.

What may be scaring developers in the area now is the city’s refusal to provide water so that Rural Water can provide service, even though the city cannot serve the areas in question itself. It is not the cost of water, but the absence of it, even though water is available in abundance, which is the sticking point now. Developers see this and wonder whether they should make an investment when the city may block their water service.

Finally, what about Honda? Mayor Manus says Honda wanted the city to provide its water and that any other solution would have been a deal breaker. Who knows if it was really true? Rural Water had the only line in the area. Nonetheless, in the general interest, Rural Water signed a contract with the city waiving its right to serve Honda in return for a promise by the city to establish geographical service areas for both the city and Rural Water. When the city could not provide immediate water service to the Honda development, Rural Water bailed them out by agreeing to provide temporary water service until the city could get a line to Honda. Both of these agreements were signed personally by Mayor Manus. He is the responsible official.

How did the city keep its promise? By engaging in negotiations that were a charade, by pretending to be concerned for citizens who lack water and need it desperately and by cutting off negotiations without ever making a single proposal to increase water capacity to Rural Water. The city’s only solution to the jurisdictional question was to take all of Rural Water’s business in and all they way around the city and to refuse to negotiate any compromise, however small.

This is how the city negotiates. This is the value to be attached to city promises. Decatur County Rural Water continues to look for ways to serve its existing customers and to get water to those in need. It is hoped that good solutions can be reached in the next few days. It appears, however, that any solution will be found in spite of, not because of, the efforts of the city administration.

Board of Directors

Decatur County Rural Water

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