Better-tasting water is goal for proposed ballot issue in Harrisonville; November vote likely

bbashioum@demo-mo.comAugust 8, 2014 

Harrisonville residents have griped for years about the town’s bad-tasting water, and city leaders are preparing to ask voters for the money to fix it.

A proposed bond issue, which could go before voters as soon as November, would pay for upgrades to the city’s water treatment plant.

The price tag: $9.5 million.

City leaders are promising that the improvements would reduce taste and odor-causing compounds below detectable limits, while setting the stage for extending the life of the water system.

If approved, Public Works Director Jerry Gibbs said, the money would also be used to expand plant capacity from 2.4 million gallons per day to 3 million; meet existing and prepare for future regulatory requirements; and extend the useful life of the treatment plant.

Harrisonville resident Brian Hasek, who was vocal in opposing the city’s recent street improvement sales tax proposal, told the Board of Aldermen that he supports this project.

“I’ve lived here a long time and the water doesn’t taste the greatest,” he said. “I know this would help that. You need to show the people that this is truly something that is needed and that needs to be done.”

Hasek encouraged city leaders to be careful how they present the issue to voters.

“I’m all for doing the water plant, but my concern is after the sales tax, a lot of people don’t trust what you’re doing,” Hasek told the aldermen. “I think they made that clear.”

On Aug. 4, the aldermen approved the first reading of an ordinance to let voters decide on allowing Harrisonville to issue $7 million in combined water and sewer revenue bonds to finance the upgrades.

A second reading is scheduled for Aug. 18. If approved by the aldermen, the issue is likely to appear on the November general election ballot.

Upon passage, the city would become eligible to receive state revolving funds. The current interest rate on revolving funds is an attractive 2.09 percent, according to Gibbs.

To pay back the bond over the next 20 years, the city would phase in a rate hike for utility customers to the tune of about $3 per 1,000 gallons of water used.

Gibbs said the increases would be made gradually over several years.

According to the city’s finance department, the average residential customer uses about 4,000 gallons a month, resulting in an average monthly increase of about $12.

The improvements needed, Gibbs said, include upgrades to equipment and the plant electrical system, chemicals to improve operational efficiencies, filter replacement, finished water pumping, and adding ozone for control of taste and odor.

If voters approve the $7 million, Harrisonville plans to use $2.5 million in previously approved revenue bonds to cover the rest of the cost.

“If we want this to pass, (the ballot language) has to be direct and guaranteed to the public that the money and those bonds are going to the water plant,” Ward 3 Alderman David Dickerson said.

In addition to the water improvement project, the city staff recently submitted its list of organization goals and objectives for the next year.

The Board of Aldermen directed staff to prioritize the projects and determine which to include in the city's proposed 2015 budget. The city has an estimated $450,000 to invest in the slated objectives.

The proposed budget will be available for citizen review beginning Friday, Aug. 22, at City Hall and at the library.

The board’s first opportunity to give budget approval will be at its scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2.

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