Breaking news: Voters overwhelmingly approve MSD’s $945 million bond issue

Staff Report

City and county voters today overwhelmingly approved the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s $945 million bond issue.

In addition, voters approved eight amendments to the MSD charter.

In St. Louis County, the bond issue was approved with 49,758 “yes” votes — 84.73 percent, according to unofficial election results. The measure received 8,966 “no” votes — 15.27 percent.

County officials placed voter turnout at 9.19 percent.

In St. Louis with all but two of 190 precincts reporting, the bond issue received 13,226 “yes” votes — 86.61 percent, according to unofficial election results. The measure received 2,045 “no” votes — 13.39 percent.

City officials placed voter turnout at 8.9 percent, excluding the two precincts.

The bond issue required a simple majority from throughout the sewer district, which includes the city and St. Louis County, excluding far west county.

Proceeds from the bond issue, Proposition Y, will provide funding to address sewer overflow issues across the district’s service area. As a result of Prop Y’s approval, MSD rates will increase 52 percent by July 1, 2015.

If Prop Y had not been approved, MSD rates would have increased nearly 127 percent by July 1, 2015.

The average single-family residential bill stands about $28.73 per month, according to MSD officials.

The sewer overflows Prop Y will address resulted in the district being sued in June 2007 by the federal government on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Missouri on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources. The Missouri Coalition for the Environment Foundation later intervened under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Water Act.

In the lawsuit, among other things, the United States alleged that on at least 7,000 occasions between 2001 and 2005, failures in MSD’s sewer system resulted in overflows of raw sewage into residential homes, yards, public parks, streets and playground areas.

Under a settlement announced last August and formally approved April 27, the MSD will pay an estimated $4.7 billion over 23 years to eliminate illegal overflows of untreated raw sewage, including basement backups, to reduce pollution levels in urban rivers and streams.

Charter amendments

The eight MSD charter amendments approved today include:

Proposition 1 asked for the charter to provide that “the portion of the district’s boundaries that are located within St. Louis County” be described in records at the secretary-treasurer of the district’s office rather than being “contained in the text of the plan.”

Approval of Proposition 2 establishes “procedural requirements relating to the formation of subdistricts … and the design, construction and funding of improvements in such subdistricts.” It also would create a “method for levying special benefit assessments, all subject to a vote of the property owners in the affected subdistricts.”

The amendment also modernizes and streamlines “the process of forming subdistricts” that want to “go from septic tanks to sewer lines and puts the process in compliance with the Hancock Amendment.”

Proposition 3 sought permission to “establish environmentally sustainable standards and practices,” along with clarifying the district’s authority to “enter into contracts pertaining to stormwater facilities.”

Approval of Proposition 4 allows public notices to be given through “mail, publication or electronic media, or such other form of communication as may be permitted by Missouri law.”

Proposition 5 looked to “streamline the budget process,” according to information provided by MSD, by requiring budgets to include capital projects and require a public hearing at least 21 days before adopting a budget.

Proposition 6 asked for permission for the district to use “design-build and other alternative delivery methods to make improvements, as permitted by Missouri law,” similar to the process used for the reconstruction of Interstate 64.

Approval of Proposition 7 sets a date of July 1, 2019, to establish a District Plan Amendment Commission, and “every 10 years thereafter.”

Proposition 8 asked for the ability to update the charter to “allow for gender neutrality” and eliminate the requirement that records of the Board of Trustees be kept in “bound or book form.”

Look for complete coverage of the approval of the MSD bond issue and charter amendments in the June 14 issue of the Call.