MSD board takes its oversight duties seriously, chairman writes

To the editor:

Contrary to a letter to the editor published in Call Newspapers on April 19, the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is fully engaged in the business of the district and takes it oversight duties very seriously.

The board actively reviews in depth every aspect of MSD’s work, including capital, legal, operational and other expenditures. All meetings of the board are posted on MSD’s Web site and are open to the public in accordance with Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

The author of the letter chooses to distort and oversimplify several issues, ignoring important facts. These are the facts:

• Fact — The district is implementing the Lower Meramec Program in south county.

This construction program includes a wastewater treatment plant, a pump station, a tunnel that runs 200 feet below ground and assorted sewer work. In 1985, the entire program was priced at $73 million. Twenty years of inflation increased that number significantly.

Since 1985, south county has also grown tremendously — increased treatment capacity, odor controls, aesthetic features and additional sewer work not envisioned in 1985 had to be included in the current design of the program.

Costs related to safety were also incurred during construction of the tunnel and pump station. This has raised the price of the entire program to $230 million in 2006 dollars. The cost of the treatment plant by itself is $80.5 million.

In 1997, MSD proposed to state regulators an alternate solution to the growing wastewater needs of south county that entailed only a wastewater treatment plant and a pump station.

This proposed solution was offered as a cost-saving alternative to today’s Lower Meramec Program and was estimated to cost $63 million. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources said “no” to this proposal and instructed MSD to proceed with the current Lower Meramec Program.

The cost for the alternate proposal is in no way, shape, or form, connected to work that we are doing today. These facts have been laid out and explained numerous times to the author of the letter in public meetings.

• Fact — MSD does not award “no-bid” contracts for design and engineering work. MSD uses a selection process that takes into account both ability and cost.

MSD’s process is laid out in accordance with federal guidelines and the laws of the state of Missouri — specifically Chapter 8 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. We award the majority of engineering and design contracts in July of each year, which leads to a disproportionate amount of non-construction work being awarded at one time.

• Fact — In 2002, MSD purchased out of foreclosure a building at 2350 Market St. This purchase was made in lieu of spending $9 million on electrical, asbestos, heating/cooling and space expansion work required at our former administration building.

When the costs of long-planned, space-expanding renovations at the Market Street building are combined with rental income received from building tenants and income received from the sale of two vacated properties, the cost to move to the new building will be approximately $4.5 million — a savings of $4.5 million to our ratepayers.

• Fact — MSD has an in-house legal staff of five attorneys, one paralegal and one administrative assistant. This staff is assisted by eight outside law firms that specialize in environmental, collections, legislative, employee benefits, bond issuance and other complex areas of the law.

Thus far during fiscal 2006, our legal department has handled 3,906 separate legal matters and spent approximately $234,438.21 on outside legal services. Firms are selected using a public Request For Proposals, or RFP, process that is open and accountable to public scrutiny.

The author of the letter to the editor is a frequent critic of MSD, which is his right as a member of the public. While we welcome public input and should be held accountable for our actions, criticism should be based on fact and not a distortion of truth. In supporting or discrediting how this board oversees MSD, all parties should be held accountable for the statements that they make. For the board’s part, we choose to use verifiable facts when speaking of MSD’s accountability — not unsubstantiated rhetoric and innuendo.

Every second Tuesday of the month, MSD’s Board of Trustees holds its regular meeting. These meetings are held at MSD’s administrative offices at 2350 Market St., St. Louis, Mo. 63108. The public session of each meeting generally begins at 5 p.m.

We invite members of the public to observe these proceedings and judge our accountability firsthand.

Harold Crumpton, chairman

MSD Board of Trustees