This brief update is intended to provide clarity to some information published in a recent newspaper article about the Keats sewer benefit district, published July 24, 2023.
First, it is important to clarify that during the July 24 meeting, the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) did not vote to fund a sewer lagoon in Keats. Instead, they approved funding for an amendment to the original agreement with BG Consultants. This amendment allows BG Consultants to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the lagoon option on a specific property. The original agreement with BG Consultants was approved back in January 2020 for an amount of $8,500, which has been utilized since then. The newly approved amendment requires an additional $7,500 for further engineering work, as mentioned earlier. It’s certainly a positive step, but only one step in a longer process.
Second, the article mentions the total cost of the project as $16,000. However, this amount only covers the background research and engineering work to assess the feasibility of the lagoon project. It does not include the actual infrastructure costs, nor the expenses related to constructing the lagoon itself.
The BOCC meeting is available to view on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/live/Cwl0tZHrib8?feature=share The meeting documents are published on the Riley County website at http://rileycountyks.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&;ID=3976&Inline=True. Please note, discussion of the Keats sewer district begins about two hours after the start of the meeting recording.
The need for a new plan arose as septic systems in the area began reaching the end of their use and failing. Lot sizes in Keats do not meet minimum requirements to install replacement septic systems according to modern environmental standards. Homes without working sanitary sewer systems are not habitable and must be vacated.
“When the Rock Island Railroad laid out the homesites for the Keats community in 1887, there was no indoor plumbing, zoning, or sanitary regulations so lot sizes and on-site sewage disposal were not considered. Later, septic systems were used that had a maximum life expectancy of approximately 20 years. As these systems have begun to fail, they cannot be replaced because most of the lots within the Keats community are too small to meet the space requirements of current state and county regulations. Riley County has granted some temporary variances to county regulations but cannot waive state regulations,” explained Amanda Webb, Riley County Planning and Development Director.
The county has been working to locate the ten acres necessary to support a lagoon to serve the Keats benefit district. If a property owner is interested in supporting the project, the location will be evaluated prior to negotiations to determine if the physical characteristics of the ground (including soil texture and structure, depth of groundwater and seasonal water table, and presence of bedrock) can support a lagoon.
The lagoon would be a state regulated and permitted project that is county maintained. Lagoons must be fenced, gated, and maintained (to include seeding and mowing). There are several private and public lagoons currently being used within Riley County. The cities of Randolph, Riley, and Leonardville each have three-cell lagoons that serve their communities. A lagoon services Riley High School and is located south of their athletic field. Many private property owners in the county have lagoons that have not proven to be disruptive to neighbors.
“Every effort would be made to choose a location that would minimize odors and limit the impact to adjacent property owners through vegetative screening and wood/colored fencing. As it would be a state permitted lagoon, it would be required to meet all KDHE standards and regulations,” said Webb.
The Keats Sewer Benefit District was created by the Riley County Board of County Commissioners in October 2018 after more than 51% of affected property owners signed the petition. To request information about lagoon requirements or discuss supporting the project through land sales, contact the Planning & Development Office by calling 785-537-6332 during regular business hours.