Sennett Water district no. 8

A protest sign regarding proposed Water District No. 8 in Sennett.

Sennett has indefinitely postponed plans to form a new water district when it became clear a majority of residents in the affected area did not support it.

An expansion of water service has been talked about for 17 years, based on evidence that many wells in the town aren't very reliable and don't produce clean water. So while there are certainly residents who would love to get their properties tapped into public water, many others have expressed a desire to leave well enough alone.

For one thing, Water District No. 8 is a very expensive proposition. Construction would cost around $3.5 million, meaning the owner of an average single-family home would pay about $2,800 the first year alone. Paying off the cost of the project would mean an additional $729 a year for 38 years — and that's not counting the cost of water usage, estimated to be about $420 a year for 60,000 gallons.

Furthermore, the latest proposal was rolled out in a way that led many people to believe it was going to be forced upon them whether they wanted it or not. The town had asked affected residents to sign a petition in favor of going forward. But the petition method means that people with more valuable property get more of a say. In that case, signatures representing 51 percent of the assessed value of the affected properties would be enough to move forward.

In the end, some residents put up signs calling a weighted petition process unfair and circulated a petition of their own, asking for a popular vote on the project, a document that ended up getting more signatures than the one the town was promoting.

We can appreciate that Sennett officials see the value of upgrading the town's infrastructure. It's a smart move for many reasons. But when you see protest signs going up in people's yards, that's a big indication that something is wrong.

A weighted vote for establishing a water district may be legal, but it seems to us that it goes against the principles of democracy. An expansion of water service in Sennett should go forward only if it becomes the will of the majority of the landowners it will serve.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.