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Friday, May 6, 2016

Citizens question Purdy over $2.5 million bond issue plan

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A small but vocal crowd attended the City of Purdy's second public hearing last week on the proposed $2.5 million bond issue to make improvements to the town's sewer system. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Questions about Purdy's proposed wastewater system improvement project made for a lively discussion at last week's public hearing on the $2.5 million bond issue going before voters on June 8.

City council members, engineers and Bruce Hively from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program provided a wide range of answers.

The $3.5 million plan, which will be funded by bonds, grants and a loan, was necessitated by a change in the city's wastewater permit on discharges from the city lagoon. According to new Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulations, irrigation must be cut to a lower level, thus requiring the city to add 80 acres to expand the area treated. Audience members questioned whether expanding the acreage used to spray effluent from the city's wastewater lagoons would be enough. The city's lagoon had overflowed within weeks of its completion in 1990 due to significant rainfall and has kept doing so over the years.

Former wastewater operator Ron Gray asserted that without increasing the system's storage capacity or cutting the amount of storm water getting into the system, overflows would continue.

Brandon Freeman, engineering intern with the engineering firm of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, conceded DNR has not yet approved the city's plan. Freeman said major objections would have been raised by this point if the strategy was flawed.

The city has recently rebuilt the second lagoon west of Highway 37. The engineering plan calls for pumping the contents of the west lagoon to the east lagoon for discharge. Gray argued the quantity of effluent could be cut by irrigating directly from the west lagoon.

Glen Davidson, project engineer, said the cost of adding irrigation pumps and maintaining two land application systems would not be cost effective.

The solution proposed for Purdy would expand the volume of effluent handled to meet growth over the next 20 years. Davidson said the pipe changes and irrigation expansion should allow the system to go from an average daily flow of 200,000 gallons to 320,000 gallons.

Questions were also raised about the amount of stormwater that enters the wastewater system during heavy rains.

Mayor Ron Dutra said the city hired Ace Pipe Cleaning to begin videotaping and pinpointing problems on the public system. City Clerk Debbie Redshaw added the city had not made improvements because sewer rates had been maintained at break-even levels. No extra money was available. Public Works Superintendent Teddy McIntire said five years ago Purdy had about the fifth lowest sewer rates in the state. Rates rose when the city was pushed by DNR.

"We have tried to evaluate reasonable options to address the problem," Davidson said. "If we don't bring the system into compliance, it could turn into an enforcement action. Going to court is typically not the best way to get your problem solved."

Ruby Wilks, whose family's farmland was acquired through condemnation to build the east lagoon, questioned whether the city had adequately explained the restrictions on using irrigated land to the property owners willing to participate. Davidson disagreed with Wilks' assessment of the restrictions and said the landowners welcomed the chance to participate in return for free water.

Davidson said in all the projects where he has worked, DNR has not restricted the use of liquid effluent beyond crops that will be directly consumed at humans.

Bruce Hively, with USDA Rural Development, explained grant money is available to help the city pay for improvements. The public is expected to be able to provide 2 percent of the median household income for sewer. Calculating revenue based on a $400-per-year, per-customer average, the city can afford a $2.5 million bond issue. Rural Development is willing to provide $1.1 million in additional loan and grant money to cover the rest of the project cost.

Some of the grant money may come from federal stimulus funds, Hively said. If Purdy defeats the bond proposal, the grant money will go back to federal sources for use elsewhere.

"We're not giving you a loan if we can't give you a grant too," Hively said. "If the bond passes, it shows DNR you're working at solving the problem. That buys you time."

Several in the audience voiced concern that $40 per month for sewer service could be more than residents could afford and cause an exodus from town, especially by renters.

"The rates we've proposed here, we hope we're telling you a worse case scenario," Hively said. "The city is trying to deal with a problem. If the system goes into receivership [by going broke], DNR will fix it, and you will pay for it."

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