O'Fallon Progress

Letter to the Editor: Wastewater question appears ambiguous

To the Editor:

I have listed some comments from letters that have been included with our Water/Wastewater bills for the past several months. The comments in these letters raise several questions that I have posed following each statement from the letters included with the statements.

Jan. 27, 2015

“The City of O’Fallon has had a balanced budget for 15 consecutive years. Our bond rating, which represents how outside agencies evaluate our finances, is AA+”.

Taking this into consideration, aren’t other sources of funds like Motor Fuel Tax, State Highway and/or Federal Funding and others available to us for some of these same projects. It seems to me that these agencies should be willing to reward good fiscal management by assisting with some funding.

“Any potential lease of the city’s water and wastewater system would have to achieve at least the following benefits:

• The cost to operate the water and wastewater system will be reduced.

• The operating partner will hire current employees subject to existing hiring policies.

• The operating partner will be responsible for funding capital improvements.

• Service quality and environmental standards must equal or exceed current practices.

In addition to these benefits, the city would retain ownership and oversight, and the City Council will establish water and wastewater rates.”

If I am XYZ Water Company Supplier, a for profit entity, with stockholders/investors and I just put $50 million in your coffers, my board of directors, stock holders and investors are going to want to know how soon can we expect this investment to start paying off. Also if this is a lease—what is the time frame, when will it end? 5/10/20/40 years? There have been several articles have indicated the Water/Wastewater Department has been profitable to the tune of $260,000 or $1.5 million to meet contingencies. A for profit entity is going to want to recoup their investment in a reasonable amount of time and make a profit. The math is quite simple to recoup $50 million in 20 years would require a profit each year of 2.5 million, and that’s just to break even, to make a profit the 2.5 would have to increase by what amount??

Will they use the millions that go to cover other city expenses from the water and sewer budgets to make a profit?

If they can operate so much less then why do parts of Fairview Heights, Shiloh and Belleville pay 40-60 percent more for water than comes from the same source as ours? The only difference is their water delivery system is run by a private company and ours is run by members of our community like over 80 percent of all water systems in the United States are done and how over 95 percent of all sewer systems are run.

“Another question that comes to mind is the actual wording of the proposed ballot question, which reads:

“Shall the City of O’Fallon consider only a lease and not a sale of the

Municipal-owned water and wastewater systems and related assets”? Yes O No O”

This verbiage, similar to the verbiage used to determine the gaming question is confusing. If I vote no to the lease question then am I approving the sale of said assets? Will that lead to a second ballot if we say yes to approve leasing the assets? The gaming question was brought up in the Jan. 3 council meeting. The word SALE should not be included as Mayor Graham has in several of his news articles stated repeatedly the sale of these assets is no longer being considered.

The wording doesn’t ask for approval to continue studying the subject as the administration has said in recent presentations. It says “shall we consider,” that means consider doing the lease or not doing the lease. It seems to be a hidden way to get voters to say yes.

Nov. 20, 2014

“Executive city council meeting to discuss six (6) proposals that were received for Water and Wastewater Services”.

“The city will host public meetings to discuss details of the proposed transition prior to making a final decision.”

“The city is committed to soliciting a vendor that will offer jobs to our current water and wastewater employees”.

The vendor may offer jobs to our city employees at what wage and benefits. What can we do to protect these valuable employees? Are we doing enough?

My comments are not hidden by ambiguous language. I will vote NO for both issues on the ballot and I urge others to do the same.

Ken Kenney