Residents vote to stop project

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The plug has been pulled on a project that would have provided city sewer for the Glenwood Circle/Southern Hills subdivision in Cassville.

The Cassville City Council voted unanimously to dissolve the Glenwood Circle Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) after property owners voted 27 to 23 in favor of that action. Only seven property owners failed to return a ballot.

On Monday night, City Administrator Mike Hayslip publically read each vote outloud. With 50 ballots returned, 27 of them were marked "yes" and 23 of them were marked "no." An affirmative vote was a vote to dissolve the NID and end the project.

"This is pure democracy in action," said Alderman Pete Landstad. "This is exactly what you asked for. We thank you for voting."

The NID was officially formed on Jan. 17, 2006, when 45 of Glenwood Circle's 57 property owners signed a petition to create the district, which was the mechanism by which half the project was to be funded.

Over the past few months, some Glenwood Circle residents had become upset with the city over the project's rising costs. In April, the city opened bids for construction of the project.

Based on the low bid of $662,823.27, plus engineering and other project-related costs, the project amount totalled around $897,000. This figure was over $200,000 more than the original figure of $780,000 listed in the original NID agreement.

After hearing complaints from several Glenwood Circle residents, the city council held a capital planning session and agreed to add $60,000 more to their original contribution of $400,000, which represented approximately 53 percent of the total project cost.

With that additional contribution, property owners were looking at an approximate assessment of $7,600 paid back over 20 years to receive sewer service.

Although the council voted on May 7 to award the Glenwood Circle sewer improvement construction project to AMC Excavation, no contracts had been signed. Without a signature, AMC's bid will expire at the end of June.

The city will be absorbing approximately $162,000 in engineering fees and costs incurred in developing plans for the Glenwood Circle project.

Near the end of Monday night's meeting, aldermen voted to give back easements to the 18 property owners who gave them to the city in support of the sewer project. The city also agreed to pay all costs involved in reversing the easements.

After the city took action on the Glenwood Circle project, council members heard from local business owner John Hendricks who was present to discuss the status of the Hilltop sewer project.

Hendricks said he had no idea the city had cancelled the project until he received a copy of a letter sent to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and signed by Hayslip.

According to Hendricks and other business owners who attended a recent meeting on the project's future, they believed the city attorney would be getting back to them with several proposals for getting city sewer up to Hilltop. Instead, those who attended the meeting received the DNR letter without ever receiving any proposals.

"I don't know of one property owner who was notified prior to receiving the (DNR) letter," said Hendricks.

Hayslip explained that once he received updated cost figures from engineer Kevin Sprenkle, he gave those costs to the city council during its capital project session, and it was decided the project was no longer economically feasible.

"From the city's perspective, it appeared to us (following the meeting with Hilltop property owners), that the majority of landowners in that area were willing to pay but wanted us to pay them back in some way," said Hayslip. "The options presented would have the city paying the majority, if not all of the costs, at the end of the day."

Landstad said the city council could not justify spending $500,000 on a few businesses.

"It's not cost effective for the city to run a trunk line to Hilltop for a half million dollars for a handful of businesses," said Landstad. "You're a businessman, you should understand that."

Hendricks referenced a letter, dated Aug. 22, 2005, that stated the city had allocated $250,000 for the Hilltop project and $250,000 for the Southern Hills project.

"The council at some point thought it was important to move forward with the project," said Hendricks. "There are thousands of acres of land out there where people could build houses and businesses. What I'm here for is to say there are people who care, who want sewer out there and are willing to pay to have sewer out there.

"I don't want to see us shut the city down; I want it to grow," added Hendricks. "Let's try to figure something out. It's time to go back to the drawing board."

Randy Stockton, president of Arning Industries, was also present at Monday night's meeting. Arning owns property at the Hilltop intersection and Stockton was present at the meeting in question, which was also attended by Hayslip, former Mayor Jim Craig, City Attorney Don Cupps and other business owners.

"We've been told sewer is coming for four years," said Stockton.

"When you think of Cassville, you think of Roaring River State Park, and to get to Roaring River State Park, you go through Hilltop," said Stockton. "It still is a viable area of growth. The gateway to Roaring River is through Hilltop."

In response to issues raised by Hendricks and Stockton, Alderman Herb Primrose made a motion to reopen the issue of sewer at Hilltop by researching financing options for the project. The motion carried by unanimous vote.

In other business, the council:

• Voted to approve bills totalling $47,058.39.

• Approved a contract for engineering services with Scott Consulting Engineers out of Springfield. Hayslip said the engineering firm would be used on an as-needed basis and fees would be paid on an hourly basis as laid out in the contract. The city plans to use Scott Engineering to help update planning and zoning codes and establish a plan review process.

• Discussed changes to the city's purchasing policy. No action was taken. A new policy will be drafted and presented for approval at the next council meeting.

• Approved a $2,221.09 purchase order to have Les Jacobs Ford install a new transmission in the city's investigative patrol car.

• Held a public hearing on the annexation of property owned by Watley Holdings on Business 37. The council opted to wait to formally annex the property until a representative from Watley Holdings could be in attendance to answer aldermen's questions. "This is a positive project; this is a great project," said Landstad. "We just have a few questions."

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