Purdy files language for special election

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nov. 3 vote to determine fate of sewer system solution

The Purdy City Council has filed ballot language with Barry County Clerk Gary Youngblood, calling for a special election on Nov. 3 for a bond issue to resolve the city's longstanding dispute with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the city's sewer system.

The city will hold a vote on a $4.6 million revenue bond issue.

If successful, the city will proceed with plans to build a six-mile pipeline to send its effluent to Monett for treatment.

Because sewer charges to customers cover the cost of the project, the city does not have to seek a general obligation bond requiring a two-thirds majority. A revenue bond will require a simple majority for passage.

City council members approved the ballot language explaining the proposal in a special session. Word came on Aug. 10 that the city needed to act quickly to secure available grant money, prompting a call for the soonest possible election.

The ballot language reads: "Shall the City of Purdy issue its combined waterworks and sewerage system revenue bonds in the amount of $4,600,000 for the purpose of improving, constructing, equipping and extending its combined waterworks and sewerage system, the cost of operations and maintenance of said combined waterworks and sewerage system and the principle of an interest on said revenue bonds to be payable solely from the revenues derived by the city from the operation of its system, including all future extensions and improvements?"

"We didn't have a lot of choice," said Mayor Steve Roden. "The language suggested to us was pretty much it."

The city is eligible for a $3,010,725 grant from DNR, a loan of $1,003,757 from DNR, and $500,000 in a Community Development Block Grant, all on a first-come, first-served basis. According to Chris Erisman, engineer for the project with the firm of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, DNR has insisted that the city seek bond funding to cover the entire project.

"I'm getting questions about how high will the city raise sewer rates," Roden said. "I'm trying to get some numbers. If it goes above X amount, it will become unaffordable and we'll have to go back to the drawing board.

"I feel like they're putting out a high number to cover the cost, but I feel bills will be lower than they have estimated. Bills will be going up, no doubt. We're trying to figure out how much."

Under terms previously given, to qualify for grant money, the city must charge customers a price equal to national averages. Based on the last federal census, residents should spend 2 percent of their income on sewer service, working off local income rates. City councils have been raising rates to reach that threshold base, which Roden figures would be around $53 to $58 a month. The threshold has been figured as high as $65 a month.

"I'd like to keep it reasonable," Roden said.

After calling for an election, Roden applied for project financing and talked to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, which would oversee any loans.

"We're going to try to get a brochure printed to explain the project," Roden said. "We'll send it to all the public. I know it's going to cost some, but it's what we need to do."

Roden expects to call two public hearings in October to describe the undertaking in town hall settings. Engineers and a representative from DNR's enforcement division will be asked to attend.

Since the city's last sewer permit was issued by DNR, the city has been in violation of effluent standards. The land application system does not reduce the chemical content of the effluent, resulting in a moratorium placed on any additional sewerage connections. A link to Monett would eliminate further needs to treat sewage or maintain a mechanical plant. Failure to resolve the issue would result in financial penalties filed by DNR against the city.

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