In preparing this blog entry, I was surprised to find that there appears to be no plans to go to the voters with any bond issues or special taxes. The plan appears to be to pay for $2.5 billion of improvements over 25 years with yearly increases in the water/wastewater bills of citizens and businesses served by the Water Department. That explains the gyrations in my water bill over the past couple years! That just really surprised me--and concerns me. How high is this thing going to go? It's getting high now. In fact, this may be the factor behind the Water Department's shift from a quarterly bill to a monthly bill coming in July--so the numbers are not so appalling to the eye. My research was not extensive enough to reveal the tracking between the amount coming in and that going to be spent on repairs. I could see that if the city feels it is falling short of money and risking falling behind and getting in more trouble with the EPA (fines of over $500,000 are already levied on KCMO for sewage violations), it could go to the voters for an alternative revenue source.
However it's paid for, it's going to cost a bunch of money that's for sure. The thing is, this is money that has to be spent, sooner or later. Now, I've been down this road before. Burlington, VT situated on the eastern shores of beautiful Lake Champlain had the same problem with storm water causing untreated poo to go into local waterways. In 1984, a bond issue was brought before the people for a vote. It required a 2/3 majority to pass. It fell short--a majority voted yes, but short of the supramajority needed to pass the issue. A few years passed. In 1988, four short years later, the bacterial count in the lake was high, beaches were closed, and algae bloomed. Now, the same issue came before the voters, but cost twice as much. Thankfully, cheapskates did not prevail, and Burlington began work on its system sometime in the early '90s. The thing is it was more expensive, due to inflation, and more things to fix the second time around.
I'm not thrilled about having water/wastewater customers bear the brunt of the cost of this fix--we'll see how that works out--but this is one of those things where you just have to fix it, and the sooner you fix it, the less in the end it will cost, and the less damage will be done to the environment. It's one of those, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later" things, like the old Fram oil filter commercials. You can see one of those after the jump, if you need your memory refreshed or have never seen one.