CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kan. —
A feasibility study set to begin soon is the next step toward developing a modern water-treatment system for Southeast Kansas.
Shoal Creek Basin Regional Wastewater Authority, which formed last year, has hired an engineering team to begin preliminary studies, and Baxter Springs City Council agreed last week to paying a fourth of the cost, if necessary.
“From Baxter Springs, we have already sent the message, ‘Go, go, go.’ We’re excited about this. There’s nothing to not be excited about,” said Councilman Don Snow.
The authority recently contracted engineers from three firms to share responsibilities in producing a study to outline various options, possible phases to the development steps and potential funding sources. The engineering project team includes Tri-State Engineering of Joplin, TranSystems of Independence, Kan., and the Menen Group of Arkansas.
The timeline for the preliminary engineering study is 120 days.
Tri-State Engineering, represented by Clayton Cristy, will be in charge of project management, providing local input, and developing and evaluating sewer collection alternatives. TranSystems, represented by Shawn Turner, will also provide project management and local input, and will focus on developing and evaluating sewer collection alternatives. Turner lives within the project area and has extensive experience with projects in the area. The Menen Group, represented by Chris Milligan, will be providing technical expertise in wastewater treatment planning and design, ultimately developing the treatment system alternatives.
According to representatives from the authority, the goal is to establish a modern, efficient wastewater treatment system which, unlike the lagoon systems currently serving Southeast Cherokee County's communities, will have the capability to remove dissolved metals and industrial chemicals.
The authority itself is a unique partnership known as an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement — the first of its kind in Kansas and one that is also unusual, local officials say, because it is composed of an Indian tribe from one state, and local county and city governments from another.
“This is historic,” Snow said. “Never has it happened in the history of this country, where numerous governments and a tribe have come together to do something like this.”
The partnership consists of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma and the Cherokee County (Kan.) Commission, and city governments of Galena, Baxter Springs and Riverton. The Tribe's Downstream Casino Resort spans property in three states — Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri — and has been active in other community building activities.
This one, according to Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby, could result in the most impact so far.
“It’s a necessary step that’s going to have to happen,” he said. “The Joplin metro area is positioned for some tremendous growth. We want to be a part of the region’s strength. This is about the entire region.”
Snow credited the Quapaw Tribe with “generously approving to spend money upfront for the study,” which will cost $75,000.
Quapaw then reached out to the city councils in Baxter and Galena, and the Cherokee County Commission to split the cost in fourths if they are unable to recoup the money in grants.
“We’re looking to the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, OSHA, Grand River Dam Authority — any entity we can talk to,” Snow said.
The Baxter Springs City Council unanimously approved earmarking one fourth, or $18,750, over a span of two years, in a line item designated for the feasibility study.
“If it’s recouped through other resources, that money will be there to go toward next phase of the project,” Snow said.
He said the cost was well worth it.
“We’re looking at this as helping the entire region. This benefits all the way down to Grand Lake. Cleaner rivers. Cleaner lake. Cleaner water. This is not about Baxter Springs — this is about everybody. The more people we can help, the better it is.”
Oglesby said the Galena City Council also is on board and has been a vocal player in the project. It has not yet approved earmarking money for its quarter share of the cost, but will do so as soon as a memorandum of agreement is received, he said.
“This impacts the region in a big way,” Oglesby said. “It will get all of us on mechanical treatment, which is a big plus for all of us. Especially for commercial users, industrial users, it does make a big impact. When you’re out doing economic development, trying to attract business and industry, that’s always a question: What kind of sewer do you have?”
It’s also about doing what’s right for Grand Lake, Spring River and Shoal Creek, Oglesby and Snow said.
Cherokee County Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand said the commission is on board, too.
“The entities involved have talked for years about the county's need for mechanical wastewater treatment, but it always seemed like an unattainable goal.”
“Now, with this new partnership we are feeling like it is not only possible but it's really going to happen,” he said. “It will make us far more competitive in recruiting business and industry to the region."
THE COLLECTION SYSTEM will span an area from Baxter Springs east to the Missouri state line and north to Galena. It’s not yet known where a plant will be built.