Purdy voters approve sewer bond referendum, 83-25

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Threatened with heavy fines, voters muster 77 percent majority

Voters in Purdy handed Mayor Steve Roden a most welcome birthday present on Tuesday, passing the $4.6 million revenue bond issue to upgrade the city's sewer system through a pipeline to Monett.

The bond issue passed by a vote of 83 in favor to 25 against, or 77 percent approval.

Barry County Clerk Gary Youngblood came to the Purdy Community Building to complete the tabulation after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Youngblood said only one vote had been cast absentee, so he did not expect a high turnout. Estimating around 500 registered voters in the Purdy city limits, Youngblood figured voter turnout at around 20 percent, more than in many municipal elections.

Passage authorized the city to secure revenue bonds to build a six-inch sewer pipeline approximately seven miles north to the City of Monett's wastewater treatment plant for processing. Implementation of a pipeline will eliminate the city's present sewage processing system through land application onto an irrigation field.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) declared the city's system inadequate, failing to reduce nitrates, and pushed the city into a compliance agreement in 2012 to rectify the shortcomings. After years of negotiations, the city and DNR agreed to three possible solutions, the pipeline to Monett carrying the lowest long-term costs. Implementation of the plan required voters to approve funding. Grants and loans, covering up to three-quarters of the project, appeared to be available if voters passed a bond that covered the entire cost of the project.

DNR had threatened fines against the city for failure to keep the 2012 agreement, which was on the line in Tuesday's vote. Roden said the city could have faced penalties as high as $10,000 a day.

To Roden, who has struggled with the sewer issue since joining the city council in 2003 as an alderman, and is now serving his second term as mayor, the size of the voter turnout was heartening.

"It makes me feel better about the information we tried to get out to educate the public," Roden said. "This just gives us the ability to look for better grants and loans. All we've been doing up to now is discussing and cussing.

"I felt I'd done all I could so people could made an educated vote. Now we can go to the next step. We can call our attorney and engineers, and get grants and low interest loans lined out. We've taken the first stop to getting things done."

The requirements placed on the city by DNR, getting passage of a bond issue without written agreements in place, proved controversial with residents who attended the two public meetings held on the sewer issue. Roden said he nonetheless has a written agreement with the City of Monett to accept Purdy's sewage and process it at 80 percent of the standard residential rate, a discount made possible since Purdy will use its own pipeline. Roden also had a written agreement with DNR accepting the plan to have Monett process Purdy's effluent.

A simple majority was needed for passage. The Purdy City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in regular session to begin implementing sewer rate increases required to qualify for federal funding, and to authorize agreements to complete the project, including final engineering. The project is due for completion by 2018.

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