Cape Girardeau City Council to set sewer plant issue on April 5 ballot

Monday, December 20, 2010

Harry Rediger readily admits it: Sewage and the way it is treated is not something people like to think about.

But the Cape Girardeau mayor is going to ask city residents to do it anyway.

The Cape Girardeau City Council is set Monday to introduce ordinances that will put two issues on the April 5 ballot that will ask voters to consider a $72 million bond issue and an extension of the quarter-cent sales tax to pay for a new wastewater treatment plant.

"It isn't a very sexy thing, you know?" Rediger said. "We just kind of take those things -- water, sewer -- for granted. But they're there when we need them."

The council will take a first look at the ordinances at its 7 p.m. meeting. A final vote is scheduled for its Jan. 10 meeting.

The ordinances would set the date for the election to authorize the issuance of revenue bonds for a new $70 million wastewater treatment plant on Southern Expressway. It would replace the 50-year-old plant at 429 Cooper St. off South Sprigg Street.

A new treatment plant would be built to handle an average flow of 11 million gallons per day with a peak capacity of 50 million gallons per day. The existing plant, completed in 1962, has a peak capacity of 18.5 million gallons per day.

City officials say voters aren't deciding whether a new plant will be built, but how it will be financed. The existing plant is out of compliance with the Department of Natural Resources standards because it exceeds capacity 30 to 40 times a year, sending untreated sewage into the Mississippi River. While officials say rate increases are definite, they won't be as much if the two issues are passed April 5.

The bond ordinance will ask voters to authorize the issuance of $72 million in sewer revenue bonds, Public Works director Tim Gramling said. Bonds will only be issued to produce net proceeds of $70 million, he said. The additional $2 million will be used to pay issuance costs and underwriting fees, Gramling said, which is similar to closing costs on the sale of a home.

Voters will also be asked to extend the expiration date of a current capital improvement sales from March 31, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2037, which would be adding another 20 years to the existing tax, Gramling said. Proceeds from the tax after 2017 would be used to make payments on the bonds issued to build the new plant, Gramling said.

The proposed wastewater treatment plant is estimated to cost about $66 million. Additional improvements are required to be made to the sanitary sewer collection system as part of the operating permit issued by DNR for the treatment facility, Gramling said.

"It's really a regulatory issue," Gramling said of the need for a new plant. "We don't have a choice. We've been talking about this for a long time."

A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12, when city officials plan to make their case to the public.

Rediger acknowledged a sales tax extension may be a tough sell in tough economic times. But he said it would mean that a portion of the cost of a treatment plant would be paid by visitors to Cape Girardeau who pay the tax when they shop here.

"We want to do everything we can to inform the public that the need is there," Rediger said. "It isn't an elective or an optional item. We have to do this."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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