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Editorial: Why we support wastewater issue

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cape Girardeau voters will be asked to vote April 5 on how the city should finance a new wastewater treatment plant and other system improvements.

The current plant is operating over capacity and has been in violation of state and federal standards since 2009. This violation has resulted in the city paying a $15,000 civil penalty. To avoid having the federal government take over control of the wastewater system at expected much higher charges to citizens, the city has agreed to implement a new wastewater treatment system, as well as launch an $111,000 supplemental environment project by 2013 in lieu of further penalties.

The question facing city voters is not whether the city should construct the new facility and make the necessary system improvements, but rather how should the projects be financed.

The options on the ballot represent, according to city leaders, the least expensive way to pay for these projects. They include a bond issue and the extension of a quarter-cent sales tax -- which is currently scheduled to sunset in 2017. The total to be funded for the new plant and needed improvements is $72 million.

While a sewer usage rate increase will also be necessary, city leaders say the increase will not be as severe should the ballot issues pass. The average household sewer bill is currently $13.46 a month. Under the proposed plan, this rate would increase to $35.92 a month. However, should both the sales tax and bond issues fail, the average monthly bill would increase to $47.77. Worst-case scenario is if the city does nothing. Then the government would take over at rates much higher to households than the city anticipates and additional penalties would be charged to the city.

While asking taxpayers for a sales tax extension is never ideal, especially in less-than-desirable economic times, the option that city leaders have put forward is the best and most cost-efficient plan. Rejecting this option would impose an even greater burden on working families, many of which cannot afford such an increase. It's for these reasons that we support both the bond issue and an extension of the quarter-cent sales tax to fund the new wastewater treatment plant and necessary improvements.

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How will the city finance the sewer improvement if the bond issue fails? If the bond issue passes, it's easy. City sells bonds, pays bonds back with tax and sewer rate increases. If the bond authorization fails, no bonds, thus no source of 72 million to build. All I've read about is that the sewer rates will more dramatically increase to pay for the improvements. Seems to me there'd have to be a big pile of money somewhere that somebody is willing to lend. I've never seen a discussion of a potential source of the money to build.

-- Posted by Marion_Morrison on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 7:54 AM

The bond issue being voted on will allow the city to pursue bonds that have lower interest rates. Without voter approval the city will still issue bonds, but they will be annual bonds that have much higher interest rates. These can be used without voter approval.

-- Posted by Pause on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 8:25 AM

I not voting for anything the City proposes. They tax us to death and now they are getting ready to raise sewer rates big time. Have they really checked out all the options or do they care about the citizens of Cape? They are crushing any new housing and killing the average citizen. Next election everyone on the city council is history, as well as the city manager, engineering and public works.

-- Posted by stinker on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 3:39 PM

The wastewater issue is being caused by the US EPA and state DNR. It is an unfunded mandate that the city has no control over. You need to get your facts straight. It wouldn't matter who the council ia or who the city manager or anyone else for that matter, this would have to happen no matter what. This is not just a Cape Girardeau issue. It is a statewide and nation wide issue.

On the election issue, again you need to check this out a little further. If you vote no, the project will be done anyway and the city will increase the rates more than if the issues pass. Instead of just complaining and making uninformed comments call the city and talk to someone who can explain this issue. Once you hear the explaination you will see there is really no choice but to vote yes to keep from paying more than necessary.

-- Posted by Pause on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 6:41 PM

Expect a $25 per month average utility increase in Cape....

-- Posted by vietnamvet on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 8:16 PM


You are exactly right, but that's if the issues pass. If they don't pass it may be a $33 per month increase.

-- Posted by Pause on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 10:21 PM

I'm not convinced that the city can issue bonds without voter approval. If they could, they'd do it all the time. Perhaps they can get a loan, but I'm still uncertain they can issue bonds.

-- Posted by Marion_Morrison on Mon, Mar 14, 2011, at 7:02 AM


This need for a new sewage treatment plant has been around for a decade or more! Our City leaders prefered to address fluffy things rather than address priorities like infrastructure. If this issue had been addressed before we increased taxes for water parks,libraries,ball parks,stadiums and auditoriums we may not be looking at this "damned if we do and damned if we don't" situation we are now faced with. I wonder how our seniors will handle a 20 dollar a month increase on their fixed incomes.

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Mon, Mar 14, 2011, at 8:27 AM

I don't disagree about priorities. The point is if you are truly worried about the elderly, or anyone else for that matter, being able to afford a $20 a month increase, voting no will make it a $33 a month increase. Neither increase is wanted, but $20 is better than $33. That's the choice we have. Either way the project gets done. It's required by DNR, no matter whether it was a priority with the city before now or not.

-- Posted by Pause on Mon, Mar 14, 2011, at 10:56 PM

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