Steve Wilson, local manager for Alliance Water Resources, and division manager Ron Smith last Thursday answered questions from the Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen about proposed water and sewer rate increases.
Their presentation took place during a work session prior to the regular meeting.
Alliance, which has handled the city’s water system since 2009 and its sewer since 2010, has proposed a five-year plan of continued maintenance and capital improvements that includes a 2 percent annual increase in both water and sewer rates. Commercial sewer rates will increase 3 percent annually.
The city’s contract with Alliance is in place until September 2021.
It was agreed that the plan, which runs through 2025, should ideally coincide with the length of the contract.
When the contract does end in two years, the possibility exists that the city may solicit qualification statements and bids from other water providers.
City administrator Martin Toma began the session by outlining the city’s water system problems of the early 2000s.
In 2007, the city was found to be in violation of the Clean Water Act, which Toma said “was no slap on the wrist.” Rather, continued noncompliance could have led to prison time for officials.
A consent decree had to be negotiated with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to set up a plan to improve things. In December 2009, the EPA signed off on a five-year plan. That involved contracting with Alliance to take care of the water plant and later the sewer system.
That consent decree was terminated in 2015, due to the progress made.
“Today, DNR brings people here to show them how a water and sewer operation should be done,” Toma said. “So we certainly changed our reputation within the regulatory world.”
He said the city needs to continue to maintain the operation “or history will repeat itself.”
It was decided in 2014 to set the rates five years at a time. Alliance put together a five-year projection “with various rate changes to reflect work being done in a given year,” Toma said.
The rate has always increased by 1.5 percent to 3 percent. Two percent, Toma said, “is about average.”
Toma said an ordinance to raise rates can be done without a public hearing, but that five years ago, when it was last voted on, a public hearing was held.
A public hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 24.
See complete story in the October 2 edition of the Herald.