City of Wichita holds public meeting on new water plant, Mayor Longwell not in attendance

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) It's a controversial contract that includes a decision process now being investigated by the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office.

Friday afternoon, all eyes were on Wichita city leaders as they finalized a budget to replace the city's water plant.

The Wichita Water Partners, the group responsible for 30 percent of the water plant's design, says it has found a way to save the city money and pass the savings on to customers.

The current budget is $508.1 million. The city initially estimated the project would cost somewhere around $524 million.

"We found an additional $20 million worth of savings that the city will not evaluate. The city will not have to pass on less to the ratepayer," said Wichita Water Partners Project Executive Ron Coker.

Alan King, the City of Wichita's Director of Public Works, said the latest developments have nothing to do with an investigative article in The Wichita Eagle's which claimed Mayor Jeff Longwell influenced the contract to go to Wichita Water Partners, a group, The Eagle claims, includes some of Longwell's friends.

The district attorney's office has also launched an investigation due to concerns raised after the article was published.

People who attended Friday's meeting say they're left with several questions especially since the mayor was not present at the meeting.

"I was disappointed. I was very disappointed. That was one reason I was here hoping that he would be able to talk and about some things we've overheard," said Overton.

Wichita Water Partners is still working to finalize the cost and meet the late October deadline. City leaders stressed that this extension will not delay the project.