MSD hopes voters will approve bond issue for water projects

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – St. Louis City and County residents who rely on the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Service (MSD) will decide Tuesday how to finance improvements in the waste-water system and whether storm water taxes should be equal across the district.

MSD, the nation’s fourth largest sewer system, is in the midst of a 23-year, $4.7 billion dollar project to prevent the diversion of sewage into local streams and rivers and keep it from backing up into basements.

Proposition Y calls for voter approval to issue $900 million in additional bonds that would spread the cost of the next stage of construction over a 20 to 30 year period. Rates would jump 48 percent under that choice.

If voters turn down the bond issue, rates will go up an average of 134 percent to cover the cost of the work over four years.  However, there would be no interest fees attached to the work.

The work is mandated by a court consent decree with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Coalition for the Environment.

A longtime MSD critic, Tom Sullivan complains the sewer district has mishandled its responsibilities and could have drawn on federal money to fix the sewers after the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.

MSD spokesman Lance LeComb counters that criticism saying the agency used every federal dollar it was entitled to. The money went primarily for treatment plan construction and sewer connector.

LeComb agrees MSD and the community have deferred maintenance on the system and the construction of new infrastructure.  “There’s always a time when you have to pay the Piper, and now is the time,” he said.

Sullivan prefers a pay as you go approach and thinks MSD has exaggerated the projected costs of such an approach.

The sewer district is also asking voters to approve Proposition S for storm water maintenance on its existing storm water infrastructure.  The district is responsible for more than three thousand miles of storm water pipe from 79 original sewer districts in St .Louis City and 80 percent of St. Louis County.

Under Proposition S, residents would pay the same property tax of $0.1197 per $100 of assessed valuation.  Currently the area is split into three sections, each with different tax rates and fees.

MSD is not able to correct storm water issues in creeks and streams, erosion or flooding.  Spokesman LeComb said “We would really like to because we are in the best position to do so.  So if Proposition S passes and we get the funding squared away for maintenance of the existing infrastructure, we want to go out and start having a conversation about how to fund those other storm water needs.”

That price tag is about 500 million dollars right now.

For more information about the proposals go to www.stlmsd.com.