To the Editor:
Four weeks ago, we chose to launch Vote Yes Please O’Fallon to encourage residents to vote yes on the upcoming referendum that asks the city to consider a lease and not a sale of the water and sewer system.
As I stated previously, I did not understand at first why the city would be considering a lease or sale of the water system until I did my own investigating. I found out our city has several big infrastructure projects planned that will help keep O’Fallon the best place to raise a family. It is outlined in the city’s strategic plan, which like most residents, I had not read until recently.
It is a smart business plan that took several years of planning and public meetings to develop. In the plan, there are several projects like widening Green Mount Road and mine remediation along Green Mount to prepare for St. Elizabeth’s construction of their new hospital. This needed improvement will not only allow for better traffic flow, but also create opportunity for new businesses like COSTCO to locate there.
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It calls for storm water drainage improvements along the Presidential Streets in O’Fallon and new streetscapes and parking for the revitalized downtown that has occurred over the past several years. With then new restaurants and shopping that has come, we need these improvements.
The cost for these projects are projected to be $50-$80 million.
At recent public hearings held by the city, they proposed three ways to fund these projects:
• Raise property taxes by $395 a year on a house worth $150,000 or more, which would generate $4.9 million a year. If this option occurs, it would take over 10 years to raise $50 million;
• Raise sales taxes by 25 percent which would add 1/2 cent to our sales tax generating $1.8 million a year, taking over 25 years to raise $50 million.
• Lease the operations of the water and sewer system which would generate a minimum of $50 million that could be paid out immediately to pay for the infrastructure improvements.
The referendum simply asks, “Should the city consider a lease.” If a lease can raise the necessary funds without raising taxes then, I say YES the city should consider a lease. A lease also allows the city to retain ownership of the water system, control rates and water quality, and requires the leasing company to hire the current workforce to ensure our system runs like it always has.
Please join me in voting YES twice on April 7.