R-4 superintendent addresses council

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cassville R-4 School District Superintendent Richard Asbill addressed the Cassville City Council during its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 17.

"We had a good meeting today," Asbill said referring to a Cassville Infrastructure Task Force meeting held earlier in the day. "Several things were covered. Many issues were brought out, and most of them were resolved."

At the end of July, Asbill sent a letter to the city that laid out the school district's concerns regarding the city's proposed water and sewer rate increase. At that time, he also asked to join the discussion regarding the proposed rate increase and was added to the infrastructure task force.

"The city presented the task force with a great deal of information regarding the system's need for improvement," said Asbill. "As I have said, you have a real problem that has to be solved. My concern is with the proposed rate that you are currently studying."

If the proposed rate is approved, the Cassville R-4 School District will pay an additional $40,000 to $45,000 for water and sewer services each year.

"This means we will have to do things differently," said Asbill. "We are looking at ways to conserve water to do our part, but the fact is that I depend on safe reliable water and sewer services.

"The economic impact to our businesses and consumers is also important," said Asbill. "We depend on property taxes."

Asbill asked the council to consider a phase-in option for the rate increase recommended by the infrastructure task force.

"You have a problem, and if you don't act, you will have a bigger problem," said Asbill. "This is not an easy issue. You have a monumental task in front of you no matter what you choose to do. Your job is to ensure Cassville's needs are met today and tomorrow."

Cassville Infrastructure Task Force meeting

During the council meeting, Mayor Tracy Holle provided Alderman Darrell Ledenham with a brief update on the infrastructure task force meeting held earlier in the day. Holle and aldermen Terry Heinz, Bill Hill and Jeff Parsons were in attendance at the meeting.

The task force meeting was also attended by Jack Nickols, Jon Horner, Corky Stehlik, Gary Fields, Bill Shiveley, Mike Schlichtman and Asbill.

City staff members in attendance included: Steve Walensky, public works director; Lynette Dilbeck, economic development director; Darelyn Cooper, city clerk and finance officer; and Eugene Dilbeck, city administrator.

A major topic of discussion during the meeting was the city's current one-half cent sales tax.

Fields said that when the city's one-half cent sales tax was originally instated in April of 1991, the revenues were to be used for street improvements and parks.

Heinz said that it was his belief that when the one-half cent sales tax was extended in 2002 the ballot language said that the revenues would be dedicated to paying off the bonds issued for wastewater improvements. Heinz said he believed the tax would sunset when the bonds expired in 2025.

"What I object to is building in money to cover the indebtness of the bonds that are already covered by the one-half cent sales tax," said Heinz. "We will be double charging residents."

Mike Schlichtman echoed Heinz's sentiment and said he would like to see a more conservative approach to increasing rates.

"I'm all for a water rate increase," said Schlichtman. "I've been telling people that we have gotten one heck of a deal over the last 10 years. It is time to raise the rates, but do we need to raise the rates this high this fast?"

Heinz recommended the city council approve the minimum rates proposed by the Missouri Rural Water Association (MRWA) until they receive more information on the costs for the inflow and infiltration and other improvement projects.

"We have no idea what those costs will be and neither does anyone else," said Heinz. "Why should we charge for the pie in the sky?"

Stehlik pointed out that the city will need more revenue in order to secure bond money for a large project.

"I thought that we brought in a proposal that fit hand in hand with the master plan for growth," said Stehlik.

Heinz asked if all of the individuals present were still in favor of the recommendation offered by the task force in September.

Asbill said that he didn't realize a phase-in plan was a viable option until he heard about the presentation made by Lynette Dilbeck during the Cassville City Council meeting on Oct. 4.

"I think we need to go back and recommend a three-year phase-in with the goal of reaching the recommendation in three years," said Asbill.

Eugene said that the city's water and sewer systems have many problems that will need to be corrected soon.

"These problems have occurred over 10 years," said Shiveley. "Why do you want to correct all of them at one time? I think it is going to be real hard to justify 10 years of neglect in one day."

Task force members asked the aldermen in attendance where they currently stand on the water and sewer rate increase issue.

"No one has convinced me to go higher than option one (proposed by MRWA)," said Heinz.

"I will vote with the task force," said Parsons. "I think if we don't, we are just kicking the problem down the street."

Hill said he would like to support the task force's recommendation but is also listening to concerns presented by area residents.

In other business, on Monday night, the Cassville City Council:

* Heard that the Cassville Police Department will assist with several upcoming community events, including the Wildcat home football game, the Red Ribbon Week parade, the Chili and Salsa Cook-Off, the Civil War re-enactment and Trick-or-Treat Around the Square.

* Received a public works update, which included information on water tower improvements, several repairs and park maintenance.

* Heard that sales tax revenues were up eight-10ths of a percent in September and the annual sales tax revenues are up seven-10ths of a percent.

* Received an update on the airport runway sealing project, which will be completed with Missouri Department of Transportation Aviation grant funds.

* Heard that Gordon Brown, Cassville and Monett YMCA executive director, will attend the Nov. 7 council meeting to share information on the YMCA.

* Received an update on the one-year warranty inspections that will be conducted on the Sherwood Forest street improvement and Southern Hills sewer expansion projects.

* Heard that Lynette Dilbeck designed the informational flyer that was mailed to Cassville residents and a slideshow that will be presented during the informational meeting on Thursday.

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