Jefferson City sewer question affects everyday lives

There is nothing all that flashy about sewer pipes.

And as deputy director of wastewater services for Jefferson City Eric Seaman said, that might be the biggest challenge the city faces as it approaches a vote on the second sewer bond issue in a three-phase set to make improvements required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“You can’t really touch it,” Seaman said. “There is not a whole lot that is tangible. In 2000, a lot of people had a concern about the odor, so that was something they were more aware of, whereas the wet weather issues and the (sanitary sewer overflows) are things that are illegal and a water-quality issue. And yet, you generally won’t know about those unless they are in your neighborhood.”

But he said that doesn’t mean it still

isn’t important to the everyday needs of Jefferson City residents. Seaman explained that the money that comes from the $35 million bond issue will go toward replacing sewers and reducing infiltration and inflow, which cause sanitary sewer overflows and backups. Seaman pointed specifically to repairs like the Cole Junction force main, which has leaked seven times in the last two years.

Some have questioned whether there are other ways to pay for these improvements. To those who ask, 5th Ward Jefferson City Councilman Dave Griffith says that there are other options, but that they are not as palatable to the everyday consumer.

“We are just letting the public know that if we don’t pass this, the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources are going to force us to make changes,” Griffith said. “It is going to happen no matter what. We just need to decide if we want to do it with a sewer bond where we can do it with low-interest loans from the state and through bond sales or whether we want to have to borrow at conventional rates at take money out of the general fund.

“The good stewardship way of doing it would be for us to pass the bond issue and to take care of it over a 7-year period.”

If the bond issue is passed, consumers will see a 5 to 6 percent increase per year in their monthly bill, which will go from an average of $21 a month to an average of $30 by 2017.

Conversely, if the city has to buy loans through conventional means, city officials estimate that consumers could see rates as much as double in that same time.

The bond will be Question D on the ballot on Tuesday.


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