Peck divided over sewer project

A sewer project is creating a stink in Peck.

On one side are residents who want to be able to flush their toilets, wash their dishes and clean their clothes using a modern sewer system. On the other are residents who say their septic systems are just fine and are concerned that the project has changed and will cost more than originally estimated.

Vickie Burris spoke to Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday on behalf of her parents, Don and Vaunelle Burris, saying that the project has changed since first pitched and the cost has gone up. Peck is located south of Wichita.

"The current footprint of the project does not even resemble the original footprint that was initially represented to the property owners," she said.

Kathy Kraft, treasurer of the Peck Improvement District board, agreed the project has changed. The district originally planned to put in a gravity feed system but is now building an integrated system that also relies on grinder pumps. Pumps will be installed on 11 properties, she said.

Using a blended system, Kraft said, will save "hundreds of thousands of dollars in excavation costs."

The monthly sewer bill for residents, who now use septic systems, would be $57.50. The monthly fee originally was estimated at about $34, Kraft acknowledged, but that was several years ago.

"We have a majority of people that are in favor of the sewer," Kraft said. "Yes, there have been some changes that we are trying to work through. It's been an uphill struggle."

Vickie Burris and others, however, told commissioners they're being asked to pay for a system they don't want.

Jeff Crawford said he has 5 acres of property.

"I, too, don't need a sewer system," he said.

Jeanette May said her family lives on 10 acres. She said their septic system works fine, but her family knew other people in Peck would benefit from a sewer system. So they supported the project.

"When we were approached with this idea, we were told it would be about $30 a month," she said. "I feel like when we signed this document, that was one thing and now it's double that. What we signed for is not what we're getting now."

Vickie Burris told commissioners her parents would be "forced to have a grinder pump system and a three-day reservoir tank installed on their property, property that has been theirs for nearly 40 years."

"I have also been told that it would behoove me to convince my parents to sign permanent easements without compensation because if I don't, their property will be subject to condemnation of property/eminent domain proceedings."

She said her parents' septic system is expected to last 50 years.

"What is now scheduled to happen is devastating for my family," she said.

Vickie Burris also expressed concern about adequate notice of public meetings. She told Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday that requests made of the Peck Improvement Board members were not fulfilled as requested and were in the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office for review.**

Jeanette Clary, a spokeswoman with the office, said the office had not received a formal complaint. She said the office "had an inquiry and provided instructions on the process/ procedures for filing a complaint."

Kraft said the board places notices in the Mulvane newspaper about meetings and has walked door to door to let people know about them, leaving notices for people who weren't home.

Commissioners asked a staff member to look into residents' concerns and the history of the project. The board is overseen by Sumner County because parts of Peck rest in both counties.

** CORRECTION: Corrections have been made to the original version of this story, published Thursday. Return to story.