State legislators weigh in on Purdy bond issue

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fitzpatrick, Sater say proposal 
necessary, but EPA is overreaching

State legislators representing Barry County said although the $4.6 million bond resolution in Purdy is a necessity, the Environmental Protection Agency is overreaching in having the Missouri Department of Natural Resources enforce its regulations.

The issue, which will be put to Purdy voters on Tuesday, would authorize the city to get up to $4.6 million for a project that would run a sewer line from the city to Monett's wastewater treatment plant. Passage would position the city to secure $3 million in grant money from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and $1 million in loans, or other funding options through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said he thinks the solution to tie into the Monett system is a good one, and Purdy's problem with where to send effluent is not a new one.

"Small towns all over the state and all over the country have this problem," he said. "I'm just afraid they will get the money and then the EPA will put out new standards and the city will have to start all over again.

"This is not something DNR does from their regulatory perch, as far as I know. The feds provide the funds to DNR, and they run the programs on behalf of the EPA."

Fitzpatrick said he believes forcing Purdy to complete the project is outside of the EPA's constitutional bounds.

"Regulating municipalities' water and wastewater should be done by the state," he said. "The state can do better job of weighing the economic impact and dealing with the cities. But, without a successful challenge to that, there's not much we can do. We have thought about holding that funding DNR gets and telling them we're not playing ball with the EPA, and just have [DNR] enforce everything. I'd rather have our department there to assist cities through the process.

"As many problems as they cause, I think as a state, we should take a stand against the EPA. We can't stop them from giving DNR money, but we can keep DNR from spending it."

State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said he believes Purdy's proposed project is something that will just have to be done.

"You either pay now, or you will have to pay later," he said. "I feel more sorry for the residents of Purdy, because their rates will go up."

Under terms to qualify for funding, city customers must spend 2 percent of the median income on sewer charges, which will raise rates to approximately $60 a month. Right now, Purdy customers pay around $40 a month, or about two-thirds of the needed threshold.

"There are some possible grants and low-interest loans that can make it a good deal," Sater said. "Purdy was also not able to build any new construction, and [if the project is approved], they would be able to."

Sater said he agrees the EPA does not need to be as involved with small-town projects.

"I think DNR can do an adequate job without the EPA getting involved, and the EPA is overreaching a little bit," he said.

Fitzpatrick said another one of his big concerns about the proposal is the lack of a detailed agreement with Monett.

"They need to get on the ball and get something in writing, because it's hard to ask for people to vote for something before they've settled on the full details," he said. "It may be a situation where if it doesn't pass, they'll have to work out the details and then put it back on the ballot."

Sater said despite all the issues surrounding the project, he would vote in favor, as the city will have to either pay now or pay later.

Fitzpatrick said if he could vote on the issue, he would be thinking about his vote all the way into the ballot box.

"It's hard to say whether I'd vote for or against," he said. "Personally, I feel I'd vote against it out of principal because the EPA is out of line. But, this is one of those problems that at the end of the day, it's probably wiser to vote yes. It's a tough call."

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