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By Mike Scott
On Wednesday evening, January 25, City of Kahoka officials held a public informational meeting to answer questions and promote the $8,000,000 water bond issue vote on February 7.
About 20 members of the general public attended the meeting.
Klingner and Associates engineer Mark Bross started by explaining the need for updates to Kahoka’s water system, citing high levels of iron and manganese, that while safe, cause cloudy water and discoloration.
“This is easy to control and it can be consistently controlled,” said Bross. “The technology has been around for a long time.”
In addition, Bross noted that the distribution main running from Wayland to Kahoka is made of asbestos cement. Again, the waterline is safe, but the material gets brittle with aging.
“The typical life is 30 years,” Bross said. The existing waterline was laid over 50 years ago.
“These improvements have to be made anyway,” Bross stated.
“If we pass the bond issue, it allows the city to access low interest loans and grants,” he said.
One possibility he cited was a Missouri Department of Natural Resources loan for two-percent interest, along with a possible 50 percent grant.
“Contrast that to a six percent loan. It’s a simple answer mathematically,” Bross said.
Assuming the bond issue passes and the city receives grants, the water rate is expected to increase by about 34%. Without passage, the increase could be as much as 65 percent, according to information in a press release by the city,.
“If we end up going up 65 percent, that’s on the voters,” said Alderman John Gaus.
Kahoka resident and business owner Carla Ball asked, “What you think you would be eligible for grants this time, when the last application was rejected?’
Bross explained that the last application was not scored because the city did not have funding in place for the project.
“I’ve been around here for a long time,” said Alderman Larry Young. “When was the last time we asked to borrow money? We think the City of Kahoka has been doing a good job. It’s called being frugal.”
Ball asked about the “option” of purchasing water from Consolidated Public Water Supply District #1 of Clark County.
“This meeting is for the bond issue,” answered Mayor Tony Anderson.
Bross stated that the city had not been presented with numbers that it could evaluate from the water district.
“How can you evaluate when the numbers are all over?” asked Bross.
Council members also expressed concern about their ability to set prices if the city purchased its water from the water district.
“They’re not going to screw us over,” commented Ball.
If Kahoka voters reject the bond, the next steps are not clear.
Council members indicated that they may try to place the issue on a future ballot, much like the Clark County school district to fund the High School.
Another approach would be to finance the project through a lease-purchase arrangement.
“A lease-purchase is a work-around that is commonly done,” said Bross.
Because it is structured as a lease-purchase, the funding is not a “debt” incurred by the city, thereby it does not need voter approval.
Whether or not the bond passes, the earliest the city is likely to be ready to seek bids for the project is 12-14 months away. Construction would start sometime after that.
“It will never cost less than it will now,” concluded Bross.
“Our track record speaks for itself,” said Young. “We’ve been doing projects ourselves that have saved the city millions of dollars.”
Only registered voters in the City of Kahoka will be allowed to vote on the issue. The special election is February 7.