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Thu, Nov 30, 2023
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Crocker faces possible $4 million bill for wastewater treatment upgrade

CROCKER, Mo. -- Faced with an estimated bill of $4 million to bring its city wastewater treatment plant into compliance with discharge regulations, Crocker Mayor Glenn Smith said his predecessor as mayor, James Morgan, signed a consent agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources more than a decade ago to improve the plant to bring it into regulatory compliance but the city wasn't aware of the agreement the mayor signed.

"He didn't tell anybody!" said Alderman James Patton during a special Wednesday afternoon city council meeting called to address the problem.

Council members met Wednesday with their city attorney, Ronda Cortesini, the city's engineer, Cary Sayre from Allstate Consultants LLC, and a financial advisor to plan how to deal with the problem. Voters approved a bond issue of up to $4 million to pay for the treatment plant upgrade. City officials plan to apply for a state revolving loan fund at an interest rate of less than 2 percent, probably between 1.5 and 1.7 percent, for 20 years.

"In our voluntary consent agreement, the DNR wants us to complete two projects in 2025 with the final completion of the project in 2027. We're going to try to approach them to have a single completion date, which will work better for our financing," Smith said. ""We're trying to do something and trying to do it right.

Sayre said it's important to show state officials the city wants to make progress.

"It gets embarrassing when we are fighting with the regulatory agencies and we can't do anything. I want to see this fixed before it gets adversarial," Sayre said.

Responding to questions, Sayre said the city could be eligible for a grant of up to $2 million or 50 percent of the total project cost.

"Conceivably you could get over half of this project paid for in grant money, but I don't consider that likely," Sayre said.

"So if this ends up being a $4 million project we could end up getting grants for $2 million of it?" asked Alderman Richard Heenan.

Sayre said that could be depending on details he doesn't yet have.

Patton said even if the city gets the maximum amount of grants, it will still have to take out a loan to meet regulatory rules on wastewater.

"We know it's been broke and we've been working on this for the last five years," said Smith.

"We're going to exhaust every avenue before we borrow any money," Heenan said.

"We're going in the right direction, anyway," Patton said. "I'd like to see us get as much as we can get because the customers can't afford more bills."

After reviewing Sayre's plant design and planned budget, Patton said the wastewater treatment plant needs to have an emergency generator.

"Right now if the power goes out, that plant is dead," Patton said.

In other business Wednesday, aldermen met with Police Chief Regina Utley-Arrington to address the city's police budget. Heenan said he wants to find ways to cut expenses to increase pay for police to attract more officers to Crocker.

A review of the traffic tickets shows Crocker generates only about 1 percent of its city revenue from tickets, even though Chief Regina Utley Arrington said she is "getting hammered on Facebook" for the number of tickets written. Aldermen said they have no plans to increase revenue from tickets but want to look at ways to cut expenses.

"We've got to cut the overtime out. Does anybody disagree?" Heenan said.

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