Residents of Southern Hills subdivision gathered to discuss the City of Cassville's sewer system proposal design on Nov. 28.
"Everybody is aware where we are at in the process," said Jim Craig, Cassville mayor. "The city wanted to help as much as it could and committed a lion's share of funds to the run of this project."
The Southern Hills Phase A portion of the sewer project, which includes the majority of Glenwood Circle area of the subdivision, will cost around $670,000, said Kati Rose, city administrator.
The city has committed $400,000 to the project, lowering the residents' personal costs to $270,000 or $6,600 per homeowner.
If the debt is assessed over a 20-year period with a 5 percent interest rate, it will cost each homeowner around $530 per year. The annual fee will be charged through a special assessment tax.
The sewer project costs include disconnecting the septic tank and connecting to the sewer system line. The septic tank will be pumped out, holes will be punched in the bottom and the tank will be filled in.
In contrast to the Sherwood Forest project, which was assessed by linear foot of road footage, Southern Hills will be assessed by lot.
The city's portion of the project is funded by $500,000 in bonds that were originally sold for the wastewater treatment plant upgrades, said Rose.
Southern Hills will receive $250,000 of the bonds, and the Hilltop project will receive the remaining half of the bonds.
The extra $150,000 that has been budgeted for the Southern Hills Phase A project will be generated by increased revenues from the Wal-Mart Supercenter, said Rose.
"Selling more bonds would take a vote of the people," said Rose.
"There would be a time factor involved as well," said Craig. "I think we felt with the amount of resources the city is committing to this it might be good to go ahead with the project."
Rose researched the possibility of funding the project using grant funds and found that the city's sewer rates are too low.
"Cassville sewer rates are a little over 1 percent and must be over 2 percent to receive grants," said Rose. "To reach 2 percent, it would be approximately 100 percent increase."
The city's current rates are around $18 per month for each household. Statewide sewer rates average between $40 and $50 per month, said Kevin Sprenkle, city engineer.
"We increased the rates 50 percent last year. We will look at it next year to see what we need to do to cover the treatment plant costs," said Rose. "Even if we raised the rates, 51 percent of Southern Hills would need to meet low- to moderate-income levels to receive a grant."
Several residents insisted that the sequential phases of the project share the initial costs of Phase A of the project.
The Southern Hills Phase A area has around 40 homeowners. Another phase of the project includes the Hilltop area with around 10 home and business owners.
If the Southern Hills project cost of $270,000 was added to the Hilltop project cost of $200,000 Southern Hills homeowners would each be charged $9,400. The Hilltop fees would decrease from the original charge of $20,000 to $9,400.
In order to put the Southern Hills sewer project in motion, residents must form a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID).
After the district is formed, a selected committee will decide the district boundaries and other stipulations for the project.
"With a NID you are the ones that decide," said Sprenkle. "You are the ones putting things together. If the NID is not formed the money the council has agreed to use will not be used on the project."
If the Southern Hills NID is formed, by two-thirds of the residents inside the proposed boundary, all residents inside the boundary could be forced to hook onto the sewer system.
If less than two-thirds of the residents inside the proposed boundary join the NID, a smaller NID group could be formed with the property owners at Hilltop, said Rose.
"You will benefit from this project by having sewer in your area," said Rose. "The Department of Natural Resources is cracking down on septic tanks."
"We all want the sewer," said Joe Luney, a Southern Hills homeowner. "It's the cost. You have to get the cost down to get people on board. If you could get it down half as much, you'd have everybody going for it."
"The septic is going by the way side," said Gloria Black. "I know $6,600 seems like a lot, but it sounds like the NID would have a lot to say about how this project is conducted. Would you rather have some input or wait until you're forced to do this anyway?"
Around 22 homeowners signed the NID petition at the end of the public hearing. Black was selected as the NID chairman. The NID committee will consist of all signing members.
The Southern Hills Phase A NID committee set all of Glenwood Circle inside the boundary lines.
The sewer project completion time is estimated between nine and 12 months. New lines will run under some streets and between some houses in the Southern Hills subdivision. The line will be set up to serve the entire subdivision in the future.