Scott Co. water district faces bond vote Nov. 8

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The future of the Scott County Public Water Supply District No. 4 may hinge on the Nov. 8 election.

Voters who go to the polls will have the opportunity to either pass or reject a $25 million bond issue that will pay for the cost of the project. The bonds will be retired through user fees, and a simple majority is needed to pass.

The water district is designed to deliver a reliable, clean water supply to all county residents not currently served by a water district. Many homes in Scott County suffer from hard water and shallow wells, and the county health department estimates that up to half the county's well systems have the potential for contamination.

While increased property values and enhanced fire protection are added bonuses for residents, hooking up to the system is optional.

All three county commissioners back the plan, as do the administrators of two school districts on well systems -- Kelly and Scott County Central.

"We definitely need the water district to go through," said Kelly superintendent Don Moore. "We periodically experience problems with our wells. We don't know how much longer our current system will last."

Moore said at the beginning of the school year the wells went out for nearly an entire morning, leaving the school without water in the heat of summer.

Phil Lyon, president of the district board of directors, said the election is critical for continuing construction of the district. Voters approved formation of the district in April, but funding is still needed for the massive project that could serve 3,700 county residents. If the bond issue is passed, it will give the water district the authority to borrow up to $25 million in 33-year, low interest loans from USDA Rural Development.

If the bond issue doesn't pass, the board of directors will have to determine the next step. That could be changing the district boundaries, seeking funding another way, or a number of options depending on the vote and the board's analysis of it.

The district still has a lot of work to do even if the bond is accepted.

So far about 360 users have signed on and started paying their $150 connection fee in six installments. To make the project feasible, at least 1,000 need to be signed on. The more people who sign on, the lower costs will be for each resident.

If 80 percent of the 3,700 eligible customers sign up, the cost will average $40.50 per month, and if only 60 percent sign up, the cost will average $47.

Project engineer John Chittenden of Waters Engineering said that if the district is able to get grant funding, the costs would be lower.

Lyon said that if the funding is approved it will allow the district to more aggressively go after new sign-ups, since they will be able to devote more funds to paying personnel.

Chittenden said if all goes well, the project could start in 2007 and be completed within a year.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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