While the Harvey County Commission has been aware of the ongoing issue surrounding an Aquifer Storage and Recovery project proposed by Wichita (and following it closely), the governing body was formerly approached to take action in opposition to those efforts during a citizen's forum at Monday's meeting.

Halstead resident Dave Wendling spoke to the commission on behalf of a new group — the Citizens for the Conservation of the Equus Beds — that has formed in reaction to Wichita's project. Wendling brought forward the major concerns the group has regarding what the ASR project could do to groundwater in the region.

"This proposal, in my opinion, would jeopardize the entire water supply for the county and surrounding counties," Wendling said. "The concerns are greatly about the water quality and quantity in the future."

Given Wichita's request to get additional water rights in the Equus Beds well field (up to 120,000 feet from its base 40,000 feet), Wendling noted the citizen group has major concerns about how that could impact the salt plume near Burrton — with lowering of the water level potentially making that plume move faster.

Raising these concerns, Wendling and the group were asking for the county's support on the issue — and to make that known to the Kansas Division of Water Resources — while also encouraging the governing body to join in the efforts of the Citizens for the Conservation of the Equus Beds.

Like Wendling and the citizen group, commissioners have some concerns about the project as well. Part of that stems from the way the final decision is made on the project.

"Our big concern is it's not a board that decides this, it's not a committee that decides this, it's one individual," said commission chair Randy Hague, "and that's wrong."

Additionally, while there have been statements made that the area east of the Little Arkansas River (towards Newton's groundwater source) will not be affected by the ASR project, commissioners stated they are not so sure that will be the case.

Contentious as the issue has been while the proposal is considered, the commission was overwhelmingly on the side of the concerned citizens. With Wendling noting the local Groundwater Management District (No. 2) had also recently voted to appose the ASR project, the commission was fully on board to work on a letter of opposition to send to the DWR.

"We'll draft something saying the county opposes their (Wichita's) proposal," Hague said. "People don't realize how precious of a commodity that water is."

In other business, the county commission:

Heard a report from Harvey County representative Wayne Valentine on the resolutions — including plans for sports betting revenue and the legalization of medical marijuana — the Kansas Silver-Haired Legislature will be presenting for the state legislature to consider during its next session.
Recognized Harvey County 911 dispatcher Courtney Becker, who received a special stork pin for his help on a call in which he helped a grandfather deliver his granddaughter before emergency services were able to arrive on scene.
Discussed the potential of changing engineering firms to help with plans expanding space at the county landfill.
Learned of ongoing talks at the regional level to spark more support from the Kansas Department of Transportation for highway and other infrastructure projects.
Was informed of plans for the congregate meal program to expand in the county, in Hesston this week and Sedgwick next week — with Hesston also taking on the role of supplying all meals (two offered seven days a week) in Harvey County.
Received a reminder about the open house from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Dec. 17 happening at the Harvey County Health Department building.
Heard a report on the 2018 Kids Count — an annual snapshot of how Kansas children are doing statewide. Health Department Director Lynnette Redington pointed out some numbers that are trending downwards, both good (food insecurity/free and reduced lunch) and bad (reading proficiency), as did county administration in regards to uninsured children age 0-18 — which was also pointed out to be dropping among older adults (age 19-64). While the numbers might not be quite where Redington hopes, she said it is good to see some positive change and efforts being taken on to continue those trends of improvement.
Discussed a potential contribution to the Newton Chamber of Commerce for a proposed marketing campaign through Armstrong Chamberlin to help improve the perception of Newton schools as it relates to the real estate market. A motion to commit $2,500 to the campaign failed as a majority of commissioners want to see what kind of commitment will be made by Harvey County Economic Development and USD 373.
Approved an invitation to bidders for a one-ton truck for the Noxious Weed Department.
Appointed Debbie Church to the Parks Advisory board, waiving second reading, for a three-year term to start Jan. 1, 2019.
Reviewed proposals for a cabin to add to Camp Hawk and playground equipment to install at Harvey County West Park, with the commission agreeing it would like the department to do more research on both items before it makes a decision.
Approved Resolution 2018-25, which cancelled outstanding county warrants totaling $121.64.
Approved the bid from The Newton Kansan for the publication of legal notices for the county at a rate of $2.75 per column inch. It was the lowest of two bids received.
Talked about potentially holding a joint meeting with the Newton City Commission on Dec. 20 to discuss the law enforcement center remodel and potential economic development issues.
Approved the annual peopleware agreement with with Computer Information Concepts for a total cost of $68,485, authorizing administration to sign.