County officials say they are nonplused by the concerns of two rural water districts.
Rural water districts don't have to sell the additional water meters they will get as the result of stricter planning regulations Douglas County might approve.
``If Districts 4 and 5 don't want to be in this, that is their choice,'' Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell said Wednesday. ``I don't profess to make decisions for the water districts.''
Chappell was responding to a letter of protest that two southern Douglas County water districts sent to the commission this week. The districts said they felt caught in the middle of a complex quid pro quo that would put a burden on rural property owners.
The county has tentatively agreed to tighten development regulations in the rural areas nearest the city of Lawrence. That will protect the city from having to make costly utility and infrastructure improvements when it annexes subdivisions into the city.
In return, the city will let the rural districts sell more meters. The districts have hit the limits set in their contract to buy water treatment services from the city.
Chappell said the water districts won't be forced to issue additional meters because the provision to tighten planning regulations is a separate agreement from rural districts' water treatment contract.
``They can choose not to negotiate it,'' he said.
Talitha Bailey, secretary of Rural Water District No. 4, said Tuesday that the water districts feel caught in the middle because the city is using water meter limits to win concessions from the county. However, Bailey said, the districts weren't going to refuse to sell meters they might gain as a result of the city-county negotiations.
``We are not going to fight with them, but what they are doing is not something we want to be part of,'' Bailey said.
For example, the new planning regulations would require that new development be accompanied by surveys, larger water lines and streets that meet city standards.
``I've never been under the delusion that we'll be thanked by rural water districts for discussing all these issues together,'' said County Commissioner Mark Buhler, who has been negotiating the agreement for the county.
Buhler said his purpose has been to protect the interests of the county, which is grappling with a steady migration of people who are leaving the city to live in the country.