Mayor Longwell reacts to allegations of steering water treatment plant contract to ‘friends’

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell is responding to allegations brought forth by an article in the Wichita Eagle Sunday.

The report alleges personal relationships impacted Longwell’s decisions, steering a contract toward friends, in the the development of a new water treatment plant.

The city’s current water treatment plant is aging, and for years the city has discussed the need to build a new plant. That final cost is expected to be more than half a billion dollars.

In Kansas.com’s investigation, it requested thousands of pages of public records, including Longwell’s work calendar and various email communication.

The article pointed to meetings and communications it called “questionable” citing personal relationships between Longwell and some members of Wichita Water Partners, a company that has been awarded some initial contracts.

The report says a city selection committee recommended awarding the contract to Jacobs Engineering and says that Longwell urged the council to encourage a design contest instead of which Wichita Water Partners was the only firm to enter.

Longwell told KSN’s Tiffany Lane Sunday he did not violate any city laws by his involvement in the contract and that he has friends in both firms.

“Absolutely, I have friends on both sides,” said Longwell. “And that’s often the case when you live in a community for 60 years, you build relationships with people. I’ve been in public office for 25 years with school board experience, city council experience. You get to know a lot of people. So, define what friend is.”

Longwell says the city has not yet determined who will work on the larger project and Wichita Water Partners have only received an initial design contract.

The city is expected to move quickly on next steps, because of a looming deadline to apply for a federal loan that could save the city tens of millions of dollars.

KSN reached out to the Eagle for on-camera comment. Representatives said no one was available to talk with us Sunday.

To see a statement released to media Sunday afternoon, read below:

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