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At a special meeting June 25, the Sedgwick County Commission voted down Commissioner Jim Howell’s proposal to provide the City of Derby $15,000 toward turning on an old well. 

Howell, along with local residents, believes turning on the well could help relieve flooding that has plagued an unincorporated area in southeastern Sedgwick County since May.

The commission previously voted June 18 to request Derby turn on two abandoned water wells, but the city responded to the request saying one of the wells is inoperable and the other is unreliable.

Originally, the county anticipated it would cost between $12,000 and $15,000 to run the wells for 60 days.

The wells were part of Derby’s water supply until 2003, when the city opted to buy its water from Wichita rather than build a treatment plant to meet the needs of its growing community.

David Spears, county public works director, said June 25 that Derby was requesting a $70,000 guarantee from the county before committing to repairing and operating the wells.

In response to Derby’s request for $70,000, Howell on June 25 made his proposal to provide $15,000 toward turning on at least one of the wells.

“If there’s a broken well, I’m not saying we should repair that well,” he said. “There’s an urgency to this. People down there are suffering right this minute.”

The motion failed, with only Howell and Commissioner Michael O’Donnell supporting it.

Commission Chairman David Dennis told homeowners at the meeting that he felt sympathy toward their situation but he couldn’t support Howell’s motion because it was a short-term “Band-Aid” fix.

A homeowner present at the meeting asked if the state of Kansas could help by declaring a state of emergency. Dennis said damage in the area did not meet the standards needed to declare one.

Commissioner Lacey Cruse, who also voted against Howell’s motion, suggested commissioners schedule a joint meeting with the Derby City Council to plan a response to the flooding.

“It sounds like we’re telling them what to do and they’re telling us what to do, when we should be sitting in the same room talking about it,” Cruse said.

Though it may be far into the future, Howell suggested one long-term solution could be for the cities of Haysville, Mulvane, Derby and Wichita to form a water treatment plant at the now-flooded area.

Another long-term solution suggested at the June 25 meeting was forming a special improvement district in the area to develop a flood drainage system.