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Springs: Crowd appreciated chance to talk

Staff writer

Forty-five people showed up to Florence’s Market Bakery Monday to hear the DeForest family share their thoughts on a new lease plan for Crystal Springs.

“These aren’t legal terms, they’re not official. These are just talking points,” family member Paul Attwater said.

The DeForests do not have a formal plan, but they are willing to terminate any lease agreement down the road, as long as Florence gives 30 days notice.

“The city will have the unilateral right to decide whether to extend it, at a price that will be determined, not by us,” the Deforest’s family attorney Brad Stout said.

Previously discussed was 10-year lease, five-year extensions. The new, unofficial plan would be for up to 40 years.

The DeForest’s unofficial plan was created after last week’s meeting with the city, so the council and mayor had not previously seen the details. The only council member present was Trayce Warner.

Warner kept copies of the plan and gave the details to the council and the mayor during Tuesday’s council meeting, held at 6:30 p.m.

“I think it’s very important for you guys to review this as a proposal,” Warner said. “Don’t reject it just out of hand.”

Florence resident Darla Spencer also made a point to speak at the council meeting about Crystal Springs.

She mentioned how much she appreciated the forum, something the city council never gave residents.

“As a community member myself and a voter, I’m really going to think hard next time I go to the polls,” Spencer said.

The DeForests and their attorney feel 40 years is more appropriate than the 99-year lease because they can’t predict future changes.

“We think a 20-year option with two 10-year renewals is more appropriate than 99 years,” Stout said.

Attwater was alarmed to find out the original deal didn’t pass because he got no warning and found out second-hand.

“I was sitting in my chair at home, watching the 10-o’clock news on Channel 12, it came up about this dispute,” he said. “All of a sudden, talk of eminent domain came up.”

A question water ownership that was answered. While the DeForests own the land, the state owns the water

Kansas owns all water in the state, but that was not the case when the original lease was signed in 1920. Florence has the right to use 42-million gallons of water a year from the springs. Of that amount, the city uses about 13-million gallons per year.

“That leaves a lot of water that can be used for a lot of different things,” Attwater said. “At the same time, that isn’t all of the water that the spring produces, it’s a very prolific spring.”

Since there is a surplus of water, large amounts will go unused by the DeForests and Florence, flowing downstream to the creek. At this point, it is anyone’s water to use.

“That’s what we anticipate happening with the difference between 42-million gallons and 13,” Stout said. “Why you can’t surf on that creek, I don’t know.”

The family is not trying to set anyone on edge, thinking the water supply will be shut off, he said.

“We don’t want to do anything that would suggest we would cut water off,” he said.

According to the family, the land holds extreme sentimental value.

“My dad bought that land and he loved the farm,” Linda DeForest Long said. “He loved what we called the Robinson Place, where city springs are at.”

John DeForest loved bringing his kids, and later his grandkids, down to the spring. He was incredibly proud of it, Linda said.

“We respect that, my brothers and sisters respect his feelings on the land,” Linda Long said. “We love it too. We are very fortunate that my dad was able to do that.”

Holding open meetings with the community is not the typical way to work with clients, Stout said.

“We’re not here to point fingers or anything,” he said. “We’re not here to increase animosity, we’re here to decrease it.”

Stout will be drafting an official lease agreement using the proposed terms from Tuesday’s forum.

Last modified Aug. 22, 2018

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