Sticker shock in Van Buren over $9 million bond issue

VAN BUREN, MO (KFVS) - Voters in Van Buren, Missouri will decide whether a $9 million revenue bond is the right spending limit for the city's long-term plan to improve it's combined water and sewer system.

City officials describe the ballot measure as the first step toward accessing other funding sources to help pay for repairs and new projects, while voters are shocked at the large price tag and don't see the urgency is passing it.

Laura Woods has lived in Van Buren for 15 years and said community members she has spoken with do not think its the right time to be focusing on improving the city's water and sewer system.

"Everybody is saying 'Why now?'" Woods said. "We are still recovering from the flood and new construction is going on. Why do we need to improve the water? They think rebuilding our houses should be a priority, and getting some of the businesses back that we have lost because of the flood."

If the bond passes Van Buren's city council has permission to fund up sewer and water projects for the next 35 years, but can not exceed the $9 million limit.

City Clerk Gerri Flatt said they plan to use a combination of federally-sourced low-interest loans and grants to address certain project at certain times.

"It's kind of like making a wish list for everything you need or want for your water and sewer system and you've got 35 years to do it," Flatt said.

Areas the city plans to address include making repairs to aging water lines, extending water service to new areas, and building a new well and water tower outside of the floodplain.

"We have two wells that supply the water and both of them were under the flood water," Flatt said. "When we get a new water tower, only the part of town that is under water will be affected. Everybody else will still be able to have water and sewer service, so we might be more prepared if it were to happen again.

Flatt added that a landowner is Van Buren has offered a piece of property as the new location for the well and water tower to be built, which would allow the city to use some of the funding to acquire the real estate.

Whether or not the bond issue passes, Flatt sewer rates will still be going up because the work needs to be done.

"They're going to go up regardless," she said. "But if we were able to do a bond and have some sources of funding they might not have to go up as much. If we have to fund some of these projects on our own we would have to significantly raise the rates."

People who live in Van Buren city limits will decide the fate of the $9 million bond on April 3rd.

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