Homeowners will decide fate of sewer project

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The future of the proposed Glenwood Circle sewer improvement project will be decided by a vote of the 57 property owners.

During a specially called Cassville City Council meeting on Monday night, Glenwood Circle homeowners were informed of a new development that would allow for the dissolution of the Neighborhood Improvement District, which was formed to finance the project.

Previously, the city was under the impression that the NID had to remain in place and the project had to legally move forward after bids were opened and the low bid fell within the perimeters of the original NID agreement. Based on that assumption, the council voted to award a $662,823.27?construction contract to AMC Excavation, of Willow Springs, and go ahead with sewer improvements.

The city is estimating the total project cost would be around $890,000, which was considerably higher than originally predicted but within the 125 percent contingency laid out in the NID agreement. The higher costs produced unrest among a number of Glenwood Circle property owners who spoke out against the project at recent meetings.

As a compromise, the city decided to increase their share of the costs by $60,000 to bring the city's investment up to $471,745, which represents 53 percent of the total project cost.

Due to the contentious nature of the project, City Administrator Mike Hayslip began researching Missouri statutes to find a possible avenue for dissolving the NID. He found what he was looking for in a statute that allows for the dissolution of special districts with a petition initiative and a majority vote of the district's members.

This new information was shared with the 35 Glenwood Circle residents who were in attendance at Monday night's meeting. Homeowners were notified about the special meeting by certified mail.

"All we're trying to do today is to give everybody an equal voice in the process," said City Administrator Mike Hayslip. "This is a new starting point for you. This is an opportunity to start this project or end it."

Hayslip explained that the voting process could be started if 8 percent, or five property owners, signed a petition to request a vote be taken. At least eight of those present at the meeting raised their hands and proceeded to sign their names to a petition.

With the petition signed, ballots were then distributed to property owners in attendance at the meeting. Some quickly filled out their ballots while others took them home to be turned in later. Hayslip explained that ballots had to be initialed and returned in person to City Hall by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 21.

"We want to ensure the integrity of the voting process," Hayslip said.

Ballots and a letter explaining the process were mailed by certified letter to those members of the NID who were not present at the council meeting. One ballot per household will be cast and only those who return ballots will have their vote counted. The issue will be decided by a majority of the votes cast.

"We want to listen to you," said Mayor Tracy Holle. "We're not against you. We're just trying to find a solution that will help you the most. We got caught up with what we thought was best, but we want to do what's right."

Ray Raine asked the council if they would be willing to provide an additional $40,000 for the project.

"If you could come up with that, you'd have a majority," Raine said.

Although the council did not take a vote on the issue, the aldermen's informal answer to the question was "no." During the May 7?meeting, the council announced its willingness to contribute an additional $60,000 toward the project but made it clear that was all they would add.

Terry Heinz asked the council why the project was not funded through a bond issue. Hayslip explained that the city was at bond capacity, and even if the city could issue bonds, the issue would have to be approved by a vote of the citizens.

"This is your project," said Hayslip in addressing the group of property owners. "If you want it, you can vote for it. If you don't, vote to end it."

If the majority of property owners vote to dissolve the NID, the council would not sign the construction contract with AMC Excavation and the project would cease. The city is prepared to absorb the $162,000 it has already spent on the project.

"We are supposed to be stewards of the resources of the collective city, so if the majority of Glenwood Circle residents do not want this project, the council would not be wise in spending an additional $310,000 to continue it," said Hayslip. "We can use that money to benefit the city in other ways."

Alderman Pete Landstad urged all property owners to cast a ballot on the issue of dissolving the NID.

"With this vote, every member of the NID has a voice if they choose to vote," said Landstad. "Please vote; this is your chance. It will be an up or down vote. We're either going to start the project or stop it. It's your decision."

Ballots will be read publically during the council's May 21?meeting.

In addition to distributing ballots, the city created a list of facts citizens needed to know before voting to retain or dissolve the NID.

Some of these facts are listed below:

• Should the project continue, the NID will contribute approximately $430,000 toward the project. The individual assessment would be divided over 20 years. If a property owner sells their home during the next 20 years, the assessment would remain with the property.

• The $890,000 is not the final dollar figure for the project. It is only an estimated cost. Cost increases over the $890,000 would be the responsibility of the NID.

• Costs have increased over original estimates by way of five different revisions of the project plans at the request of certain NID members. Material costs have also increased during the three-year time span between the formation of the NID and the project bid.

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